Lake Erie sustained large populations of ciscoes (Salmonidae: Coregoninae) 120 years ago. By the end of the 19th century, abundance of lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) had declined drastically. By 1925, the lake herring (a cisco) population (Coregonus artedii) had collapsed, although a limited lake herring fishery persisted in the eastern basin until the 1950s. In the latter part of the 20th century, the composition of the fish community changed as oligotrophication proceeded. Since 1984, a limited recovery of lake whitefish has occurred, however no recovery was evident for lake herring. Current ecological conditions in Lake Erie probably will not inhibit recovery of the coregonine species. Recovery of walleye (Sander vitreus) and efforts to rehabilitate the native lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) in Lake Erie will probably assist recovery because these piscivores reduce populations of alewife (Alosa psuedoharengus) and rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax), which inhibit reproductive success of coregonines. Although there are considerable spawning substrates available to coregonine species in eastern Lake Erie, eggs and fry would probably be displaced by storm surge from most shoals. Site selection for stocking or seeding of eggs should consider the reproductive life cycle of the stocked fish and suitable protection from storm events. Two potential sites in the eastern basin have been identified. Recommended management procedures, including commercial fisheries, are suggested to assist in recovery. Stocking in the eastern basin of Lake Erie is recommended for both species, as conditions are adequate and the native spawning population in the eastern basin is low. For lake herring, consideration should be given to match ecophenotypes as much as possible. Egg seeding is recommended. Egg seeding of lake whitefish should be considered initially, with fingerling or yearling stocking suggested if unsuccessful. Spawning stocks of whitefish in the western basin of Lake Erie could be utilized.
Additional publication details
Potential strategies for recovery of lake whitefish and lake herring stocks in eastern Lake Erie