Diel patterns of distribution of fishes in nearshore (15–80 m depth) and offshore (>80 m) waters of the Apostle Islands region of Lake Superior were described using bottom trawls, mid-water trawls, and acoustic gear during day and night sampling. These data revealed three types of diel migration: diel vertical migration (DVM), diel bank migration (DBM), and no migration. DVM was expressed by fishes migrating from benthopelagic to pelagic strata and DBM was expressed by fishes migrating horizontally from deeper waters in the day to shallower waters at night while remaining within the benthopelagic stratum. Most fishes that did not exhibit diel migration showed increased nighttime densities as a result of increased activity and movement from benthic to benthopelagic strata. Rainbow Smelt (Osmerus mordax), Cisco (Coregonus artedi), Bloater (C. hoyi), Kiyi (C. kiyi), juvenile Trout-Perch (Percopsis omiscomaycus), and adult siscowet (Salvelinus namaycush siscowet) exhibited DVM. Lake Whitefish (C. clupeaformis), lean Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush namaycush), and juvenile siscowet exhibited DBM. Adult Trout-Perch and adult Pygmy Whitefish (Prosopium coulteri) exhibited a mixture of DBM and DVM. Burbot (Lota lota), Slimy Sculpin (Cottus cognatus), Spoonhead Sculpin (C. ricei), and Deepwater Sculpin (Myoxocephalus thompsonii) did not exhibit diel migration, but showed evidence of increased nocturnal activity. Ninespine Stickleback (Pungitius pungitius) exhibited a mixture of DVM and non-migration. Juvenile Pygmy Whitefish did not show a diel change in density or depth distribution. Species showing ontogenetic shifts in depth distribution with larger, adult life stages occupying deeper waters included, Rainbow Smelt, lean and siscowet Lake Trout, Lake Whitefish, Pygmy Whitefish, Ninespine Stickleback and Trout-Perch. Of these species, siscowet also showed an ontogenetic shift from primarily DBM as juveniles to primarily DVM as adults. Across all depths, fishes expressing DVM accounted for 73% of the total estimated community areal biomass (kg ha−1) while those expressing DBM accounted for 25% and non-migratory species represented 2% of the biomass. The proportion of total community biomass exhibiting DVM increased with depth, from 59% to 95% across ≤30 m to >90 m depth zones. Along the same depth gradient, the proportion of total community biomass exhibiting DBM declined from 40% to 1%, while non-migrators increased from 1% to 4%. These results indicate that DVM and DBM behaviors are pervasive in the Lake Superior fish community and potentially provide strong linkages that effect coupling of benthic and pelagic and nearshore and offshore habitats.
Additional publication details
Habitat use by fishes of Lake Superior. I. Diel patterns of habitat use in nearshore and offshore waters of the Apostle Islands region