1. Rivers in boreal forested areas were often dredged to facilitate the transport of timber resulting in channels with simplified bed structure and flow fields and reduced habitat suitability for stream organisms, especially lotic fishes. Currently, many streams are being restored to improve their physical habitat, by replacing boulders and gravel and removing constraining embankments. The most compelling justification behind stream restoration of former floatways has been the enhancement of native fish populations, specifically salmonids.
2. We examined the success of a stream management programme aimed at re-building diminished brown trout (Salmo trutta) populations by monitoring densities of young-of-year and older trout in 18 managed and three reference streams during 2000–2005. Rehabilitation included in-stream restoration combined with a 5-year post-restoration period of stocking young brown trout. Our space-for-time substitution design comprised four pre-management, four under-management, 10 post-management and three reference streams.
3. Densities of young-of-year brown trout, indicating population establishment, were significantly higher in post- compared with pre-management streams. However, density of young-of-year brown trout in post-management streams was significantly lower compared with near-pristine reference streams. Furthermore, success of managed brown trout population re-building varied, indicating stream-specific responses to management measures. Density of burbot (Lota lota), a native generalist predator, was associated with low recruitment of brown trout.
4. Stream-specific responses imply that rehabilitation of brown trout populations cannot be precisely predicted thereby limiting application. Our findings support the importance of adaptive stream restoration and management, with focus on identifying factor(s) limiting the establishment of target fish populations.