Behaviour and diet of sea trout post-smolts in a Norwegian fjord system

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Abstract

In order to study the behaviour of sea trout Salmo trutta L., in the early post-smolt phase, reared smolts were tagged with acoustic transmitters and released in the estuary of the River Aurland (Western Norway) and observed for 31–137·5 h. The study was conducted in May-June 1991 and 1995 on a total of seven tagged smolts. The fish moved back and forth along the littoral zone close to the surface and migrated net distances of 100–8000 m. In 1991 the tagged fish were usually observed in schools averaging 24–55 fish, while the tendency to school was less pronounced in 1995. Post-smolts of wild and reared origin were caught by 25 m long gillnets in the littoral zone. In 1991 the mean distance to shore at capture was 4·3 m and the mean depth 0·6 m, and the corresponding numbers in 1995 were 8·0 and 0·8 m. The distribution of the post-smolts is explained by a general preference for shallow water caused by osmoregulatory problems in high-salinity deep water, together with a preference for the sheltered littoral zone and a strong predation pressure in the open sea from fast swimming pelagic fish predators and gulls Larus sp. Schooling seemed to restrict predation by cod Gadus morhua L., in the littoral zone in 1991, while no cod were observed in this habitat in 1995. In both years the stomach contents of the netted fish consisted mainly of terrestrial insects. Reared fish chose prey items similar to those taken by wild fish, but consumed less food.

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