The relative quality of a habitat can influence fish consumption, growth, mortality, and production. In order to quantify habitat quality, several authors have combined bioenergetic and foraging models to generate spatially explicit estimates of fish growth rate potential (GRP). However, the capacity of GRP to reflect the spatial distributions of fishes over large areas has not been fully evaluated. We generated landscape scale estimates of steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) GRP throughout Lake Michigan for 1994-1996, and used these estimates to test the hypotheses that GRP is a good predictor of spatial patterns of steelhead catch rates. We used surface temperatures (measured with AVHRR satellite imagery) and acoustically measured steelhead prey densities (alewife, Alosa pseudoharengus) as inputs for the GRP model. Our analyses demonstrate that potential steelhead growth rates in Lake Michigan are highly variable in both space and time. Steelhead GRP tended to increase with latitude, and mean GRP was much higher during September 1995, compared to 1994 and 1996. In addition, our study suggests that landscape scale measures of GRP are not good predictors of steelhead catch rates throughout Lake Michigan, but may provide an index of interannual variation in system-wide habitat quality.
Additional publication details
Landscape scale measures of steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) bioenergetic growth rate potential in Lake Michigan and comparison with angler catch rates