Food availability is a primary factor limiting the abundance of wild populations, but quantifying it requires an understanding of when and where prey are vulnerable to predators. Salmonid fishes in streams are commonly thought to forage on drifting aquatic invertebrates during daylight hours. However, past studies also report benthic and nocturnal foraging despite the predominant view of salmonids as diurnal drift-feeding predators. We used instream videography to assess foraging mode and energy intake for stream-dwelling Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri. We recorded the foraging behavior of wild fish with a waterproof video camera and estimated energy intake based on fish size, foraging rate, retention rate, and caloric values of prey. Fish captured prey primarily from the water column and surface, targeting drifting invertebrates during daytime hours; however, they also foraged from the stream benthos and during nighttime. Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout foraging rate was most strongly related to foraging location in the stream, diel period, and month. Energy intake was highest from daytime drift-foraging behavior and exceeded a modeled metabolic limit of food intake during October and November. Nocturnal and benthic foraging contributed the smallest proportion of total foraging attempts but was observed over all months of our study and sometimes comprised up to 30% of estimated energy intake. Our results indicate that Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout in streams acquire most of the food intake as daytime drift-feeding predators.
Transactions of the American Fisheries Society