Populations of lake trout Salvelinus namaycush in Lake Superior collapsed in the late 1950s due to overfishing and predation by sea lampreys Petromyzon marinus. A binational effort to restore the lean morphotype of lake trout began with the stocking of hatchery-reared fish followed by the chemical control of sea lampreys and closure of the commercial fishery. Previous comparisons of the contemporary abundance of wild lean lake trout with that from historic commercial fishery statistics indicate that abundance was higher historically. However, this conclusion may be biased because several factors- the inclusion of siscowet (the 'fat' morphotype of lake trout) in the catch statistics, the soak time of nets, seasonal effects on catch per effort, and the confounding effects of effort targeted at lake whitefish Coregonus clupeaformis- were not accounted for. We developed new indices of historic lean lake trout abundance that correct for these biases and compared them with the assessment data from 1984 to 1998 in Michigan waters of Lake Superior. The modern (1984-1998) abundance of wild lean lake trout is at least as high as that during 1929-1943 in six of eight management areas but lower in one area. Measures to promote and protect naturally reproducing populations have been more successful than previously realized.
Additional publication details
Historic and modern abundance of wild lean lake trout in Michigan waters of Lake Superior: Implications for restoration goals