Energy density and size of pelagic prey fishes in Lake Ontario, 1978-1990: Implications for salmonine energetics

Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
By: , and 



We describe dynamics of energy density and size of Lake Ontario alewife Alosa pseudoharengus and rainbow smelt Osmerus mordax, and we use a bioenergetics model of a common pelagic piscivore, chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, to demonstrate the effect of these factors on piscivore daily ration during 1978–1990. The energy density of alewives varied more than twofold between peaks in September (age 1) or October–November (age ≥2) and the lows in May (age 1) or July–September (age≥2). The previously described seasonal pattern of energy density of Lake Michigan alewives was similar except that energy density of older alewives (age≥3) was markedly higher in Lake Michigan. During 1978–1990, the spring energy density of Lake Ontario alewives peaked in 1979 (6,259 J/g wet weight), declined irregularly until 1985, and then remained stable through 1990 (at approximately 4,600 J/g). The initial decline may have been a density-dependent response to a burgeoning alewife population, but the lack of an increase in alewife condition in the late 1980s, when alewife biomass fell, suggests a decline in lake productivity. Energy density of rainbow smelt increased with age in Lake Ontario and condition was invariant during 1978–1990 despite a threefold change in rainbow smelt biomass. Rainbow smelt energy density was lower and fluctuated less seasonally in Lake Ontario than in Lake Michigan. Mean weight of alewives aged 2 and older dropped from 41 g in 1978 to 19 g in 1989 in Lake Ontario. Rainbow smelt aged 2 and older showed a drop in mean weight from 13–17 g in 1978–1982 to 8 g in 1990. This downward trend in mean size of alewives was correlated with the sizes of alewives consumed by Lake Ontario chinook salmon during 1983–1987. For adult chinook salmon to maintain a constant growth rate during 1978–1990, mean individual daily ration during June–October had to increase from a low of 2.2% body weight/d (or 1.5 prey fish/d) in 1979 to 3.1% body weight/d (3.7 prey fish/d) in 1988. This increase in forage demand may have caused the observed declines in individual condition of salmonines over this period.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Energy density and size of pelagic prey fishes in Lake Ontario, 1978-1990: Implications for salmonine energetics
Series title Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
DOI 10.1577/1548-8659(1994)123<0519:EDASOP>2.3.CO;2
Volume 123
Issue 4
Year Published 1994
Language English
Publisher Taylor & Francis
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description 16 p.
First page 519
Last page 534
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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