Alewives (Alosa pseudoharengus) were first reported in Lake Superior in 1954 and gradually increased in abundance in the late 1950s. In the 1960s and early 1970s, the fish were widespread in the lake but scarce. We determined the more recent abundance and distribution of alewives by cross-contour trawling in the spring in 1978-1988. Alewives were scarce lake-wide; the mean catch rate was only 23 fish per 100 h of trawling and represented a density of 0.003 kg per hectare in the area swept by the trawls. Fish of six age groups were caught in trawls in spring and gill nets in fall in 1983-1987. Total annual mortality was 64%, a high natural rate in the absence of fishing. Alewives in Lake Superior were small at the end of their first growing season but later grew faster than those in the other Great Lakes. Fecundity, estimated to be 64,000 eggs (mean total length = 187 mm) was higher than in other freshwater stocks. Zooplankton was the major food of alewives < 100 mm long and Mysis was the main food of larger fish. Exposure to water temperature below lethal minimums for overwintering fish and for developing eggs limits the success of this species in Lake Superior.
Additional publication details
Distribution, abundance, and biology of the alewife in U.S. waters of Lake Superior