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|Subspecies:||S. a. oquassa|
|Salvelinus alpinus oquassa
The Sunapee trout also called blueback trout, Sunapee Golden trout or Quebec red trout (Salvelinus alpinus oquassa) is a putative subspecies of Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) native to the northeast United States, Québec, and New Brunswick. Originally described as three separate species--S. oquassa, the blueback trout of Lake Oquassa in Maine (1854), S. aureolus the golden trout of Sunapee lake in New Hampshire (1888) and S. marstoni the Quebec red trout (1893).
The Sunapee trout is often a foot long and is said to actually be silver in color. It is an distinct strain of Arctic char, having become trapped by changed drainage systems and climates in numerous lakes and ponds in New England and southeastern Québec. The lake for which this subspecies is most noted for is Sunapee Lake in New Hampshire. In the wake of the retreating glacial front approximately 8,000 years ago, following the end of the last ice age, the Arctic char, an extremely coldwater, anadromous fish, was still spawning in New England. After the climate changed sufficiently, anadromous Arctic char stopped spawning in New England, leaving several lacustrine populations of Arctic char cut off from the bulk of the species in deep, cold, clear lakes in New Hampshire, Maine, and Québec. The lake populations of Arctic char in Maine are termed "blueback trout," those in Québec are termed "Québec red trout," and the populations that used to exist in Vermont and New Hampshire along with the current population in Floods Pond, Maine, are termed Sunapee golden trout.
By the late 19th century, as the New Hampshire and Vermont lakes developed its own steady summer tourism, recreational fishermen who sought to increase their catches began to introduce new fish species into these lakes, and these eventually overwhelmed the native Sunapee golden trout. Lake trout, a larger char that holds the same ecological niche as Sunapee trout, only better, out-competed the Sunapee golden trout and hybridized with it, further accelerating its decline. The world record Sunapee golden trout was most likely a hybrid between the two species. Soon after that record-setting catch, the Sunapee golden trout could no longer be found in its resident lakes.
The Sunapee Lake strain of the Sunapee trout was rediscovered in 1977 when Kent Ball, of Idaho Fish and Game, discovered a char species living with brook trout in a mountain lake in Idaho. Analysis by Robert Benhke, Eric Wagner, and Steve Culver proved the species to be the sunapee trout. Later research found reports of a trout egg trade between the Idaho and the New Hampshire Fish and Game departments. They are reported found in two Idaho bodies of water, Alice and Sawtooth Lakes.
DNA analysis done in the latter half of the twentieth century on museum specimens of the Sunapee lake strain of the Sunapee golden trout found that all lacustrine populations of Arctic char in north eastern North America have been isolated from each other for near equal amounts of time, indicating that there is no special, distinguishing characteristics between the Sunapee trout of New Hampshire and Vermont and the blueback trout of northern Maine.
- ""Salvelinus alpinus oquassa"". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
- Behnke, Robert J. (2002). "Arctic Char". Trout and Salmon of North America. Tomelleri, Joseph R. (illustrator). New York: The Free Press. pp. 303–311. ISBN 0-7432-2220-2.
- Robert J. Behnke. About Trout: The Best of Robert J. Behnke from Trout Magazine. Retrieved 2016-05-01.
- "NAS - Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Salvelinus alpinus oquassa". US Geological Survey. April 17, 2012.
- Davis, Ed (Winter 1985). "The Red Trout:Profile of a Rare Gamefish during the 1930s in Quebec" (PDF). The American Fly Fisher. Manchester, VT: American Museum of Fly Fishing. 12 (1): 11–13. Retrieved 2014-11-19.
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