We used a long-term series of observations on alewife Alosa pseudoharengus abundance that was based on fall bottom-trawl catches to assess the importance of various abiotic and biotic factors on alewife recruitment in Lake Michigan during 1962-2002. We first fit a basic Ricker spawner-recruit model to the lakewide biomass estimates of age-3 recruits and the corresponding spawning stock size; we then fit models for all possible combinations of the following four external variables added to the basic model: an index of salmonine predation on an alewife year-class, an index for the spring-summer water temperatures experienced by alewives during their first year in the lake, an index of the severity of the first winter experienced by alewives in the lake, and an index of lake productivity during an alewife year-class's second year in the lake. Based on an information criterion, the best model for alewife recruitment included indices of salmonine predation and spring-summer water temperatures as external variables. Our analysis corroborated the contention that a decline in alewife abundance during the 1970s and early 1980s in Lake Michigan was driven by salmonine predation. Furthermore, our findings indicated that the extraordinarily warm water temperatures during the spring and summer of 1998 probably led to a moderately high recruitment of age-3 alewives in 2001, despite abundant salmonines.
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Recruitment variability of alewives in Lake Michigan