The Detroit River is part of a channel connecting Lakes Huron and Erie and was once a prolific spawning area for lake whitefish, Coregonus clupeaformis. Large numbers of lake whitefish migrated into the river to spawn where they were harvested by commercial fisheries and for fish culture operations. Prior to our study, the last lake whitefish was landed from the Detroit River in 1925. Loss of spawning habitat during shipping channel construction and over-fishing, likely reduced lake whitefish spawning runs. Because lake whitefish are recovering in Lake Erie, and spawning in the western basin, we suspected they may also be spawning in the Detroit River. We sampled in the Detroit River for lake whitefish adults and eggs in October–December 2005–07 and for larvae during March–May 2006–08. A total of 15 spawning-ready lake whitefish from 4 to 18 years old, were collected. Viable eggs were collected during mid-November 2006–07; highest egg densities were found mid-river. Sac-fry whitefish larvae were collected in the river and near the river mouth. No whitefish larvae were retained in the river. Because high numbers of larvae were collected from mid- and downstream river sites, reproduction of lake whitefish in the Detroit River could contribute substantially to the Lake Erie lake whitefish metapopulation.
Additional publication details
Life history characteristics of a recovering lake whitefish Coregonus clupeaformis stock in the Detroit River, North America