Bighead carp Hypophthalmichthys nobilis, silver carp H. molitrix, and grass carp Ctenopharyngodon idella (hereafter Asian carps) have expanded throughout the Mississippi River basin and threaten to invade Lakes Michigan and Erie. Adult bighead carp and grass carp have been captured in Lake Erie, but self-sustaining populations probably do not exist. We examined thermal conditions within Lake Erie to determine if Asian carps would mature, and to estimate time of year when fish would reach spawning condition. We also examined whether thermal and hydrologic conditions in the largest tributaries to western and central Lake Erie were suitable for spawning of Asian carps. We used length of undammed river, predicted summer temperatures, and predicted water velocity during flood events to determine whether sufficient lengths of river are available for spawning of Asian carps. Most rivers we examined have at least 100 km of passable river and summer temperatures suitable (> 21 C) for rapid incubation of eggs of Asian carps. Predicted water velocity and temperature were sufficient to ensure that incubating eggs, which drift in the water column, would hatch before reaching Lake Erie for most flood events in most rivers if spawned far enough upstream. The Maumee, Sandusky, and Grand Rivers were predicted to be the most likely to support spawning of Asian carps. The Black, Huron, Portage, and Vermilion Rivers were predicted to be less suitable. The weight of the evidence suggests that the largest western and central Lake Erie tributaries are thermally and hydrologically suitable to support spawning of Asian carps.
Additional publication details
Thermal and hydrologic suitability of Lake Erie and its major tributaries for spawning of Asian carps