Deepwater sculpin (Myoxocephalus thompsonii) were abundant in Lake Ontario in the 1920s and at least common into the 1940s. By the 1960s they were rare and, thereafter, some considered the population extirpated even though a synoptic survey of the lake in 1972 produced three, relatively large (148-165 mm total length, TL), and presumably old, specimens from the northern half of the lake, Deepwater sculpin were absent from annual survey catches in the 1980s and did not reappear until 1996, when three were caught in northern Lake Ontario. Isolated collections of deepwater sculpin continued during 1998-2004. Catches during 1996-2004 included five smaller individuals, 89-118 mm TL. In 2005, catches increased sharply, with 18 deepwater sculpin collected from southern waters and one from northern waters. Moreover, young, small sculpin were dominant in 2005 - 16 of the 19 sculpins averaged 68 ?? 12 mm total length (?? 1 s.d.). The young fish observed since 1996 could have originated from reproduction by the small in-lake population, from downstream drift of planktonic larvae from Lake Huron, or both. The presence of juveniles is a clear sign that conditions for survival of young deepwater sculpin are becoming more favorable, perhaps because of reduced abundance of alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus), a pelagic planktivore linked to depression of deepwater sculpin in Lake Michigan, and also low abundances of burbot (Lota lota) and lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush), benthic piscivores.
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Reappearance of deepwater sculpin in Lake Ontario: Resurgence or last gasp of a doomed population?