Lake Trout - Salvelinus namaycush
State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
The Native Lake trout is currently ranked "S2" in Montana because it is at risk due to very limited and/or potentially declining population numbers, range and/or habitat, making it vulnerable to extirpation in the state. This species is a glacial relic in Montana known from native (never-stocked) populations occurring in Waterton Lake, Glenns Lake, Cosley Lake, and St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park and Lower St. Mary Lake on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, as well as a couple of small populations in the upper Missouri River basin. Otherwise, all other populations in the state are introduced.
The Lake Trout is a char of the same genus as Bull Trout and Brook Trout. Lake Trout are native in the St. Mary and Missouri River drainages and have been introduced to a few other scattered mountain lakes, Flathead Lake, and Fort Peck Reservoir. Lake Trout are a major game fish in much of Canada and were at one time a staple of the Great Lakes fishery. In Montana, the Lake Trout of Flathead Lake have achieved trophy status, growing to 42 pounds. Lake Trout inhabit very deep, cold lakes, living in water up to 200 feet deep. They spawn in the fall on the rocky substrate of the shoreline. They scatter or broadcast their spawn, a rarity in the trout group. Small Lake Trout feed on plankton and aquatic invertebrates but fish over 2 to 3 pounds eat a fish diet. Lake Trout are a highly-prized food fish in Canada and are catching on as a game fish in Montana with the advent of downriggers, electronic fish finders, and other specialized techniques.
For a comprehensive review of the ecology, conservation status, threats, and management of this and other Montana fish species of concern, please see Montana Chapter of the American Fisheries Society Species of Concern Status Reviews.
Lake trout are typically trout-like in shape. Like other chars, lake trout have light spotting on a dark background that can range from light green to almost black. A narrow, sometimes indistinct, white anterior border is present on the pectoral, pelvic and anal fins. Lake trout can be distinguished from other chars by their deeply forked tail
Lake trout are native to northern North America, with their historic range determined primarily by the extent and dynamics of the Pleistocene glaciations. The lake trout's native range includes portions of all of the Canadian provinces except Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, and the states of Alaska, Maine, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Wisconsin. Native Montana Populations are found within the Big Hole and Red Rock Drainages and the Hudson Bay Drainages of Glacier Park.
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
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Map Help and Descriptions
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
Deep, cold lakes and reservoirs (Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks 2003). Deep cold water lakes and reservoir with some rocky bottom and on abundance of forage fish. Spawns over rocky shoal areas in lakes in depths from 10 to 120 feet.
Young lake trout feed on plankton and aquatic invertebrates. Diet is largely other fish after reaching 2-3 lbs. in weight.
Whereas lake trout can be found in cold rivers and shallow lakes in the northern portion of its range (Scott and Crossman 1973), in Montana native lake trout inhabit a few relatively deep, cold lakes remaining from the Pleistocene glaciations.
Broadcasts spawn Oct-Nov. Eggs hatch in following March or April when water temperatures reach 34-38 degrees F. Fry soon move into deep water. No parental care.
The genetic uniqueness and significance of Montana's native lake trout populations to the post-glacial distribution of the species mandate that these remnant native populations be conserved.
Threats or Limiting Factors
Lake trout populations have been decimated by over-harvest, habitat loss, pollution, and introductions of non-native fish species, especially sea lampreys (Petromyzon marinus) into the Great Lakes. Efforts to re-establish native lake trout populations have generally not met management goals.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
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- Alowaifeer, A.M. 2019. The application of mass spectrometry in environmental chemistry: investigating biological cycling of arsenic, mercury and glycine betaine in aquatic ecosystems. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 167 p.
- Cavender, T.M. 1980. Systematics of Salvelinus from the North Pacific Basin. pp. 295-322 In: E.K. Balon (ed.) Salmonid Fishes of the Genus Salvelinus Vol. 1. The Hague, Netherlands: Dr. W. Junk bv Publishers. 936 p.
- Cavender, T.M. 1984. Cytotaxonomy of North American Salvelinus. pp. 431-445 In: Johnson, L. And B.L. Burns (Eds). Biology of the Arctic Char: Proc. of the International Symposium on Arctic char. Winnipeg, Manitoba. May 1981.
- Cox, B.S. 2010. Assessment of an invasive Lake Trout population in Swan Lake, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 79 p.
- Dux, A.M. 2005. Distribution and population characteristics of lake trout in Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park: Implications for suppression. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 87 p.
- Fausch, K.D. 1992. Life as a trout, predator. Trout Magazine Winter 1992. pp. 63-74
- Fredenberg, C.R. 2014. Efficacy of suppressing non-native Lake Trout in an isolated backcountry lake in Glacier National Park. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 87 p.
- Holton, G.D. 1981. Identification of Montana's most common game and sport fishes. Montana Outdoors May/June reprint. 8 p.
- Koel, T.M., L.M. Tronstad, J.L. Arnold, K.A. Gunter, D.W. Smith, J.M. Syslo, and P.J. White. 2019. Predatory fish invasion induces within and across ecosystem effects in Yellowstone National Park. Science Advances 5:eaav1139.
- Marcus, M.D., M.K. Young, L.E. Noel and B.A. Mullan. 1990. Salmonid-habitat relationships in the western United States: a review and indexed bibliography. USFS General Tech. Report RM-188. 84 p.
- Mullins, M.S. 1991. Biology and predator use of cisco (Coregonus artedi) in Fort Peck Reservoir, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 68 p.
- Nelson, P.H. 1953. Life history and management of the American Grayling (Thymallus signifer tricolor) in Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 45 p.
- Owens, R.W., and R.A. Bergstedt. 1994. Response of slimy sculpins to predation by juvenile lake trout in southern Lake Ontario. Transactions - American Fisheries Society. 123(1): 28-36.
- Poole, A.S. 2019. Evaluation of embryo suppression methods for nonnative Lake Trout in Yellowstone Lake, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 108 p.
- Poore, M.D. 1973. The fishery resource of Mystic Lake, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 30 p.
- Rahrer, J.F. 1963. Age and growth of four species of fish, Flathead Lake, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 16 p.
- Schultz, L.P. 1941. Fishes of Glacier National Park, Montana. USDI Conservation Bulletin No. 22. Washington D.C.: US Government Printing Office. 42 p.
- Staples, D.F. 2006. Viable population monitoring: risk-based population monitoring for threatened and endangered species with application to bull trout, Salvelinus confluentus. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 127 p.
- Sylvester, R. and B. Marotz. 2006. Evaluation of the Biological Effects of the Northwest Power Conservation Council's Mainstem Amendment on the Fisheries Upstream and Downstream of Hungry Horse and Libby Dams, Montana. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Annual Report prepared for U.S. Department of EnergyBonneville Power Administration. Bonneville Power Administration Project No. 2006-008-00 Contract No. 28350. 124 p.Contract No. 28350
- Sylvester, R. and B. Stephens. 2011. Evaluation of the physical and biological effects of the Northwest Power Conservation Council's Mainstem Amendment upstream and downstream of Libby Dam, Montana. Libby, MT: Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Annual Report prepared for U.S. Department of Energy Bonneville Power Administration. Bonneville Power Administration Project No. 2006-008-00, Contract Nos. 43309 and 48555. 282 p.
- Sylvester, R., A. Steed, J. Tohtz, and B. Marotz. 2008. Evaluation of the Biological Effects of the Northwest Power Conservation Council's Mainstem Amendment on the Fisheries Upstream and Downstream of Hungry Horse and Libby Dams, Montana. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Annual Report prepared for U.S. Department of EnergyBonneville Power Administration. Bonneville Power Administration Project No. 2006-008-00 Contract No. 28350. 124 p.Contract No. 28350
- Syslo, J.M. 2010. Demography of Lake Trout in relation to population suppression in Yellowstone Lake, Yellowstone National Park. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 104 p.
- Tennant, L.B. 2010. Spawning and early life-history characteristics of Bull Trout in a headwater-lake ecosystem. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 67 p.
- Vincent, R.E. 1963. The native range of lake trout, Salvelinus namaycush, in Montana. Copeia 1963(1):188-189.
- Weisel, G.F. 1966. Young salmonoid fishes of western Montana. Proceedings of the Montana Academy of Sciences 26:1-21.
- Williams, J.R. 2019. Quantifying the spatial structure of invasive Lake Trout in Yellowstone Lake to improve suppression efficacy. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: University of Montana. 66 p.
- Zollweg, E.C. 1998. Piscine predation on bull trout in the Flathead River, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 97 p.
- Zymonas, N.D. 2006. Age structure, growth, and factors affecting relative abundance of life history forms of Bull Trout in the Clark Fork river drainage, Montana and Idaho. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 142 p.
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