In no other lake as large as Lake Erie (surface area, 25,690 km2) have such extensive changes taken place in the drainage basin, the lake environment, and the fish populations over the last 100 years. Deforestation and prairie burning led to erosion and siltation of valuable spawning grounds. Marsh spawning areas were drained. Lake-to-river spawning migrations were blocked by mill dams. Accelerated cultural nutrient loading increased total dissolved solids by nearly 50% (1920-70). Average summer water temperatures increased 1.1 C. Phytoplankton and zooplankton abundance increased severalfold. Severe oxygen depletion developed in the bottom waters of all three basins of the lake. Lake sturgeon were fished out as nuisance fish in the late 1800s. The commercial fisheries for lake trout, lake whitefish, and lake herring collapsed by 1940 and those for blue pike and walleye by 1960. Yellow perch production became unstable in the 1960s. The effects of exploitation, environmental changes, and new species on these fish populations are discussed.
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Lake Erie: Effects of exploitation, environmental changes and new species on the fishery resources