An annual daytime bottom trawl survey of the Lake Superior fish community designed in 1978 does not adequately assess the entire community. Whereas recent studies have recommended that pelagic species be surveyed with a combination of acoustic and midwater trawling methods (AC-MT), we used bottom trawling to study the effects of depth, diel period, and season on biomass estimates and the sizes of bottom-oriented species. Day and night bottom trawl samples were collected within 48 h at three depths (30, 60, and 120 m) at a Lake Superior site during eight sampling periods that included two seasons each year (early summer and late summer to early fall) for 2 years (2004 and 2005). Depth significantly affected the biomass of seven of the eight species analyzed, while diel period affected the biomass of six species. For most species, average biomass levels were higher at night. The effect of season on biomass was comparatively low (three species were significantly affected). Depth significantly affected the sizes of six bottom-oriented species, as the average length of most species increased with depth. The effects of diel period (three species) and season (one species) on average length were comparatively small. By adding night bottom trawl samples to night AC-MT collections, the entire fish community of Lake Superior can be monitored with a single lakewide survey employing multiple gears. The establishment of offshore sampling (i.e., where depths exceed 80 m) will provide estimates of deepwater species that have been largely undersampled by the 1978-designed survey. We recommend that the present fish community survey be maintained, albeit at a reduced level, until a nighttime survey time series is well established (in 3-5 years).
Additional publication details
Factors affecting bottom trawl catches: Implications for monitoring the fishes of Lake Superior