The stock of lake herring (Coregonus artedii) in the Apostle Islands (Wisconsin) region of western Lake Superior has diminished severely during the past 30 yr, and predation by rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) on herring larvae has been considered a possible cause of this decline. In contrast, the herring stock in Black Bay, 160 km to the northeast, has remained nearly stable despite the presence of large numbers of smelt and high commercial production of herring. Predator-prey interactions were studied in both areas during 1974. Herring larvae and smelt were about 120 and 3 times as dense, respectively, in Black Bay as in the Apostle Islands region. Substantial predation by smelt on young herring was evident in Black Bay, where 17% of 1195 smelt stomachs examined contained herring larvae. From calculations of the relative densities of the two species, and of the daily ration of the predators, we estimated that smelt consumed 3.3-11% of the herring larvae. Nevertheless, the herring stocks have sustained average historical levels of commercial production. In contrast, no herring larvae were found in the stomachs of 1711 smelt collected in the Apostle Islands region. We conclude that predation by smelt on herring larvae is not the major factor controlling or suppressing herring stocks in either region.
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Predation by rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) on lake herring (Coregonus artedii) in western Lake Superior