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Keywords:

  • alevins;
  • eggs;
  • long-term studies;
  • population dynamics;
  • Salmo trutta

The objective of this study was to predict interannual fluctuations in the emergence period of sea trout fry, using models developed from field data for 70 excavated redds, and laboratory data on egg and alevin development at 30 constant temperatures (range 1·5–10·5° C with 100 naturally fertilized eggs at each temperature). Egg weight and numbers per redd both increased with female length; a power function described the relationship. Early spawners were the largest females laying the largest and most numerous eggs, whilst late spawners were the smallest females laying the smallest and least numerous eggs; middle spawners being intermediate between these two extremes. Mean values for egg weight and numbers of eggs per redd were obtained for these three groups. Hatching and emergence times in the laboratory decreased with increasing temperature. Of five models tested for hatching time, the best fit was provided by a three-parameter hyperbolic model which formed the asis of the individual-based model used to predict egg hatching and fry emergence. Model development was described in detail and the final equations predicted the times taken for 5, 50 and 95% of the fry to emerge, and hence the period over which 90% of the fry emerged. Analogous models were obtained for egg hatching. All models were excellent fits to the laboratory data. Hatching times for eggs kept in perforated boxes in the stream were almost identical to those kept at similar mean temperatures in the laboratory. Model predictions of fry emergence times were validated by field data for 8 years (1967–1971, 1974, 1975, 1980). The chief objective was therefore fulfilled, and predictions for the 30-year study (1967–1996) revealed a large variation in the timing of emergence (extremes: 11 March–4 April 1989, 15–20 May 1979). Most of the variation in median emergence date was due to variations in water temperature, with spawning dates as a secondary factor; the latter, however, had a greater effect on the length of the emergence period.