This study is based on systematic seasonal bottom trawling between 3 and 50 fathoms (5.5 and 91.5 m.) from February to November 1964 and supplementary information from other experimental fishing at additional depths and with other gear. The seasonal depth distribution of eight common species is described, and temperature relations are discussed. Catch records for less common species are mentioned briefly.
Alewives are mostly pelagic during their first 2 years, but many young of the year are on the bottom in the fall, and yearlings occasionally descend to the bottom in substantial numbers in the spring and fall. Adults are mostly on the bottom in the winter and spring, but a significant portion of the population may be at mid-levels in the summer and fall. Bloaters are in midwater during their first 2 years, but usually on the bottom thereafter. Young-of-the-year American smelt are in midwater except in the fall, yearlings are in midwater or on the bottom, and adults are mostly on the bottom.
Alewives, bloaters, smelt, spottail shiners, trout-perch, and yellow perch on the bottom moved into shallower water in the spring and into deeper water in the fall, in response to temperature changes. Slimy sculpins abandoned inshore areas as water warmed in the spring. Fourhorn sculpins showed a slight movement shoreward in the spring, but changed their depth distribution little thereafter to the end of the trawling season.
Alewives showed the greatest seasonal change in distribution. Large concentrations at 40 to perhaps 70 fathoms (73.2-128.0 m.) in mid-March had migrated to water of less than 15 fathoms (27.4 m.) by mid-April. They were in shallow water along shore or in rivers until early summer; then they began a postspawning movement back into deeper water which continued into the fall. Depth ranges in which greatest numbers of other common species occurred, considering all seasons as a whole, were as follows: bloater, 12 to 50 fathoms (21.9-91.5 m.); American smelt, 5 to 17 fathoms (9.1-31.1 m.); spottail shiners, 3 to 15 fathoms (5.5-27.4 m.); trout-perch, 5 to 17 fathoms (9.1-31.1 m.); yellow perch, 3 to 15 fathoms (5.5-27.4 m.); slimy sculpins, 15 to 40 fathoms (27.4-73.2 m.); fourhorn sculpins, 45 to 70 fathoms (82.2-128.0 m.).
Water temperature ranges (A? C.) in which the various species were most abundant in summer were: alewife, 8 to 22; bloater, 6 to 10; smelt, 6 to 14; spottail shiner, 13 to at least 22; trout-perch, 10 to 16; yellow perch, 11 to at least 22; slimy sculpin, 4 to 6; fourhorn sculpin, 4 to 4.5. Fluctuations in inshore water temperatures in the summer caused short-term changes in depth distribution.
Additional publication details
Seasonal depth distribution of fish in southeastern Lake Michigan