Does reduced feeding prior to release improve the marine migration of hatchery brown trout Salmo trutta smolts?



The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that hatchery brown trout Salmo trutta smolts, with 50% reduced or no feeding over the last 5 months before release, were more likely to migrate to the sea than individuals with standard feeding ratios. The juvenile fish were divided into three groups 176 days before release: (A) with no feeding, (B) with 50% and (C) with 100% feeding. To study their seaward migration, 40 fish from each feeding group were tagged with acoustic transmitters and tracked by automatic listening stations in the River Nidelva, Trondheim, Norway, its estuary and in the nearest marine environment. At the time of release, mean condition factor was significantly lower in group A and the fish from groups A and B had higher levels of Na+, K+-ATPase. Significantly more fish from group A migrated to the sea, but the rate of downstream progression from release to the estuary did not differ between the three groups. In conclusion, the S. trutta smolts with no access to food in the last 176 day before release were more likely to migrate to the sea. Fish from all three feeding groups, however, appeared to smoltify and had the same rate of downstream progression to the estuary. This indicates that differences in migratory behaviour between individuals from the three feeding groups begin from the time when the fish reach saline waters. It is suggested that feeding in hatcheries has to be greatly reduced (by 50% or more) over several months to have a pronounced effect on the migratory behaviour in S. trutta.