The species and size composition and the abundance of the cisco (Leucichthys spp.) population of Lake Michigan have undergone drastic changes since the sea lamprey became established in the 1940's. The changes were measured by the catches of gill nets of identical specifications fished at the same seasons, depths, and locations in 1930-32, 1954-55, and 1960-61. The two largest ciscoes (johannae and nigripinnis), exploited heavily in a highly selective fishery from the midnineteenth century to the early 1900's, were only sparsely represented in the catch in the 1930's and were absent from catches of the comparison surveys in 1954-55 and 1960-61. The species of intermediate size (alpenae, artedi, kiyi, reighardi, and zenithicus) constituted about two-thirds of the cisco stocks of the deepwater zone in the 1930's but declined to 23.9 and 6.4 percent in the 1950's and 1960's, respectively. Major causes of change were the increased fishing pressure and sea lamprey predation that accompanied the disappearance of the lake trout. The small, slow-growing cisco (hoyi) - the primary food of lake trout - which was not fished intensively, and was too small to suffer greatly from sea lamprey predation, increased from 31.0 percent of the catch in the 1930's to 76.1 percent in the 1950's and 93.6 percent in the 1960's. Consequences of the extreme imbalance of the cisco population have been a reduction in mean size of all species, extension of the range of the very abundant hoyi (formerly most abundant in moderately shallow areas) to almost all depths and sections of the lake, and possibly introgressive hybridization among the various species. The primary change in the fishery has been a shift from gill nets to more extensive use of trawls which can take the now abundant smaller fish.
Additional publication details
Status of the deepwater cisco population of Lake Michigan