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Age and growth of the whitefish in Lake Superior

Fishery Bulletin

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Abstract

The average annual commercial production of whitefish in the U.S. waters of Lake Superior dropped from 2,194,000 pounds in 1879-1908 to 504,000 pounds in 1911-59. The modern production, though far below the earlier, has accounted for more than 10 percent of the total value of the fishery in all but one of the last 20 years. Data are given on growth rate, age and year-class composition, size distribution, and length-weight relation of 1,800 fish collected in 1957-59 at Bayfield, Wis., and Marquette, Whitefish Point, and Dollar Settlement, Mich. Studies of the body-scale relation, sex ratio, and age and size at maturity were limited to fish collected at Bayfield. The age composition and mean age varied widely by port and year of capture. Oldest fish were those of the 1957 Bayfield samples which were dominated by age group VII and averaged 5.5 years old. The youngest were from Whitefish Point in 1959; age-group III was dominant, and the mean age was 3.2 years. The evidence on the strength of year classes was not clear-cut, but it was obvious that fluctuations in stocks of different areas were largely independent. The percentage of legal-size fish (17 inches or longer) in age groups ranged widely; only 8.6 percent of the V group were legal in the 1957 Bayfield collections, whereas 100 percent of fish of the same age were legal in the 1957-59 collections from Whitefish Point. The weight of whitefish in the combined samples increased as the 3.2408 power of the length. The growth rate from the fastest to the slowest growing stocks ranked as follows: Whitefish Point; Dollar Settlement and Marquette (fish from the two ports reversed ranks after 3 years); Bayfield. The major differences in growth in length among the various stocks occurred during the first years of life. Beyond the fifth year the annual increments were nearly the same in all stocks. The whitefish from Whitefish Point, Dollar Settlement, and Marquette are among the fastest growing in the Great Lakes. The differences among the Lake Superior stocks in age and year-class composition, and in growth rate offer convincing evidence that populations of different areas are entirely independent. The sexes were almost equally represented (51.5 percent males) in the combined Bayfield samples, but males were scarce in age groups older than VIII. Whitefish from Bayfield shorter than 14.5 inches were immature and those larger than 17.4 inches were mature. The youngest mature fish belonged to age-group V,and all older than the VII group were mature.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Age and growth of the whitefish in Lake Superior
Series title:
Fishery Bulletin
Volume
63
Issue:
1
Year Published:
1963
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Contributing office(s):
Great Lakes Science Center
Description:
19 p.
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
First page:
77
Last page:
95