Winter Behavior of Brown Trout: The Presence of Ice Cover Influences Activity, Stress and Growth
In an artificial laboratory stream, the presence of ice cover reduced stress and increased swimming activity, foraging and aggression. The effect of ice cover on activity was greatest for trout with high resting metabolic rates, suggesting that individual intraspecific differences in metabolism may influence the strategies used to cope with different winter conditions. In a boreal forest stream, we simulated ice by suspending plastic sheeting over five 30-m-long stretches, and trout that spent winter under this simulated ice cover grew better than trout in control stretches. These results may explain why salmonid production is high in rivers with long periods of stable ice cover and should be viewed in light of ongoing global warming.