Seasonal bathymetric distributions of 16 fishes in Lake Superior, 1958-75

Biological Science Report 7



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The bathymetric distributions of fishes in Lake Superior, which is one of the largest and deepest lakes in the world, has not been studied on a lakewide scale. Knowledge about the bathymetric distributions will aid in designing fish sampling programs, estimating absolute abundances, and modeling energy flow in the lake. Seasonal bathymetric distributions were determined , by 10-m depth intervals, for 16 fishes collected with bottom trawls and bottom-set gill nets within the upper 150 m of Lake Superior during 1958-75. In spring trawl catches, maximum abundance occurred at these depths: 15 m for round whitefish (Prosopium cylindraceum); 25m for longnose sucker (Catostomus catostomus); 35 m for lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) and rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax); 45 m for lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush); 65 m for pygmy whitefish (Prospoium coulteri) and bloater (Coregonus hoyi); 75 m for trout- perch (Percopsis omiscomaycus); 105 m for shortjaw cisco (Coregonus zenithicus); and 115 m for ninespine stickleback (Pungitius pungitius), burbot (Lota lota), slimy sculpin (Cottus cogantus), spoonhead sculpin (Cottus ricei), and deepwater sculpin (Myoxcephalus thompsoni). Bathymetric distributions in spring gill nets were similar to those in trawls, except that depths of maximum abundances in gill nets were shallower than those in trawls for lake trout, rainbow smelt, longnose sucker, and burbot. Lake herring (Coregonus artedi) and kiyi (Coregonus kiyi) were rarely caught in trawls, and their maximum abundances in spring gill net collections were at depths of 25 and 145 m, respectively. In summer, pygmy whitefish, shortjaw cisco, lake herring, kiyi, longnose sucker, burbot, ninespine stickleback, trout-perch, slimy sculpin, and spponhead sculpin were at shallower depths than in spring, whereas rainbow smelt were found in deeper water; there was no change for other species. In fall, shortjaw cisco was at shallower depths than in summer, whereas the remaining species were found deeper, except for lake whitefish and lake trout whose modal depths did not change. Distributions of lake trout and lake whitefish were analyzed by age group, and the young (ages 1-3) of both species were often found in shallower water than were older fish. The shallow-water species exhibited little seasonal changes in bathymetric distributions, whereas the species that inhabited the middepths of deeper water generally moved shallower as the seasons progressed. Most of the more pronounced seasaonl changes in bathymetric distribution were associated with spawning movements.

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Publication Subtype:
Federal Government Series
Seasonal bathymetric distributions of 16 fishes in Lake Superior, 1958-75
Series title:
Biological Science Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Contributing office(s):
Great Lakes Science Center
14 p.
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