Pictured above: Photo of 26 pound lake trout by MassWildlife

Photo of 26 pound lake trout by MassWildlife

MassWildlife biologists sampling Quabbin and Wachusett reservoirs this fall captured and released 230 lake trout, including a massive 26-pound male in the Quabbin. This exceptional lake trout was originally caught and recorded in 2014 and biologists were excited to see a fish of this size and release it yet again.

Each year, when the water temperatures in Massachusetts reservoirs drop to around 50°F (typically in late October and November) lake trout begin to spawn. MassWildlife makes a strong effort to monitor the lake trout populations during this time in both the Quabbin and Wachusett reservoirs. Despite a cold and wet November, this year crews at Quabbin captured and released 163 lake trout. Over on Wachusett, 65 lake trout were captured and release, including two 18-pounders.

To get their hands on these lake trout, field crews set out nets on spawning areas at sunset. Lake trout tend to spawn in shallow, rocky, and windy shores sometime after dusk. Checking them every 20 minutes to make sure it is as safe as possible for the fish, biologists capture fish in their nets and immediately placed into livewells. After capture the trout’s length, weight, and sex are recorded. Unique to lake trout, a Passive Integrated Tag (PIT) is also implanted in the fish. Prior to releasing, the crew also clips the adipose fin. This will leave an external mark indicating that the fish has been captured before.

Collecting these fish allows biologists to retrieve the data they need to understand the current condition of the lake trout populations. Recaptured fish enable biologists to track the individual growth rates. Lake Trout can live exceptionally long lives and typically grow at a very slow rate. It’s not uncommon for tagged fish to be recaptured ten years later. The longest recapture interval recorded was 24 years!

Sampling on these big waters in the dark, cold, and wet is no easy task. But the information gathered by biologists makes the mission well worthwhile. These sampling efforts are just one way that MassWildlife can monitor the health of these remarkable fish.

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