Rainbow trout pushing way into P.E.I. streams

Nigel Armstrong NArmstrong@TheGuardian.pe.ca
Published on April 17, 2011
Jim Brown/Journal Pioneer

Rainbow trout are not from here, but they sure like it on P.E.I. which might be a problem for Island fish, says a student looking for answers.

Scott Roloson is a masters candidate at the University of Prince Edward Island. His study into rainbow trout is co-funded by the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

“Prince Edward Island in recent decades has had rainbow trout, which is non-native to P.E.I., establish in over 20 rivers,” said Roloson. 

“My study is an investigation into why the rainbow trout has succeeded on Prince Edward Island and not done so anywhere else in the Atlantic provinces.”

Rainbow trout, native to the West Coast, grow much bigger than brook trout and most of them live a dual lifestyle. For part of their life they may take to the ocean during which time they are known as steelhead salmon. When they live in fresh water, they take on the name of rainbow trout.

“It is believed that Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout compete for habitat, (so) there is great concern that rainbow trout will negatively influence Atlantic salmon that are greatly reduced on P.E.I.” said Roloson.

Now there is concern that rainbow trout, having adapted to life on P.E.I., may now migrate and invade other Maritime rivers.

“To look into that aspect we will be tagging and tracking rainbow trout with sonic telemetry equipment and assessing their movements . . . in cooperation with the Ocean Tracking Network at Dalhousie (university),” said Roloson.

Rainbow trout was stocked on P.E.I. as a benefit to the recreational fishery and they are currently farmed in aquaculture operations here.

“Maybe our practices of stocking in the past weren’t the best idea for management of our native salmon and trout so we are looking to shed some light on the potential influences the rainbow trout are having on the native salmon and trout,” said Roloson.

“For some reason rainbow trout have established in south-draining rivers so . . . maybe the warmer waters are allowing the competitive advantage to them,” he said.

Roloson hopes to have data on migratory patterns at the end of this summer. That will guide his study for next summer.