We used a three-dimensional coupled hydrodynamic-ecological model to investigate how lake currents can affect walleye (Sander vitreus) recruitment in western Lake Erie. Four years were selected based on a fall recruitment index: two high recruitment years (i.e., 1996 and 1999) and two low recruitment years (i.e., 1995 and 1998). During the low recruitment years, the model predicted that (i) walleye spawning grounds experienced destructive bottom currents capable of dislodging eggs from suitable habitats (reefs) to unsuitable habitats (i.e., muddy bottom), and (ii) the majority of newly hatched larvae were transported away from the known suitable nursery grounds at the start of their first feeding. Conversely, during two high recruitment years, predicted bottom currents at the spawning grounds were relatively weak, and the predicted movement of newly hatched larvae was toward suitable nursery grounds. Thus, low disturbance-based egg mortality and a temporal and spatial match between walleye first feeding larvae and their food resources were predicted for the two high recruitment years, and high egg mortality plus a mismatch of larvae with their food resources was predicted for the two low recruitment years. In general, mild westerly or southwesterly winds during the spawning-nursery period should favour walleye recruitment in the lake.
Additional Publication Details
A biophysical model of Lake Erie walleye (Sander vitreus) explains interannual variations in recruitment
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences