Esther Lake has been managed for stream trout since at least 1946. For most of that time it was stocked with multiple species, usually including Rainbow Trout and Brook Trout or Splake. Since 2012 it has been managed exclusively for Splake. The 2010 lake management plan discontinued Rainbow and Brown Trout stocking as a cost-saving measure, and doubled the annual Splake fingerling stocking quota. This was the second of three standard surveys scheduled in the 2010 plan to evaluate stocking changes in this lake, and the first to be done under the new stocking regime.
Splake were present in above-average numbers and average sizes in the fall of 2015. The Splake trap net catch in this survey fell short of the long range goal (3.0 fish/set) from the 2010 plan; however, the catch was above the average (1.60 fish/set) for catches in fall surveys of stream trout lakes in this area. The mean weight for Splake collected in trap nets fell within the normal range (0.57-1.21 lb/fish) for those surveys. Splake as old as five years were included in the catch, with all stockings done from 2010 through 2014 represented. Growth had been slow, with three-year-old fish reaching a mean length of just 10.1 inches at the end of their third year, compared to an area average of 12.8 inches. Slow growth has been common in this lake, and has most likely been due to intense competition from a large White Sucker population. The increase in the Splake stocking quota may also have contributed to the slow growth seen in this survey, by increasing competition between Splake for the limited forage available.
The Brown Trout catch was low, but that was expected since none had been stocked since 2011. All of the Brown Trout taken would have been at least five years of age, and their small mean length (15.6 inches) suggested growth had probably been slow. Five-year-old Brown Trout in lakes in this area would typically reach a length of 17.5 inches in five years.
Rainbow Trout were last stocked in 2011, and none were taken in this survey. It was very unlikely that any yearlings stocked in 2011 could have survived to 2015 in an accessible and heavily fished lake like Esther.
The White Sucker trap net catch was the highest seen in this lake to date, but was still similar to most of those catches. The catch was well above the top of the normal range (4.29 fish/set) for fall surveys of stream trout lakes in this area. White Sucker compete with Splake for invertebrate forage, and their high abundance in this lake has almost certainly limited growth of stocked Splake.