The burbot Lota lota population in Lake Erie increased dramatically between 1995 and 2003, due mainly to control of the sea lamprey Petromyzon marinus, which began in the late 1980s. We estimated total length- and weight-at-age at capture for burbot caught in annual gillnet surveys of eastern Lake Erie during August 1994-2003. Mean total length was generally greater for burbot age 4-9 years that were caught in New York waters than in either Ontario or Pennsylvania waters of Lake Erie. Similarly, mean weight was greater for burbot at ages 4 through 6 years in New York waters than in either Ontario or Pennsylvania waters. Age-9 burbot caught in Ontario waters had greater mean weight and mean total length than did age-9 burbot caught in Pennsylvania waters. One possible explanation for greater length- and weight-at-age for New York burbot may be greater abundance of prey fishes, particularly rainbow smelt Osmerus mordax and round goby Neogobius melanostomus in New York waters. Total lengths at ages 4-10 years were generally greater for burbot caught in Lake Erie during 1994-2003 than those from published studies of other large lakes in North America that we considered, including for Lake Erie in 1946. The regional differences in size-at-age have important management ramifications, particularly because a commercial fishery targeting burbot has been considered for Ontario waters of Lake Erie.
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Regional differences in size-at-age of the recovering burbot (Lota lota) population in Lake Erie