Acoustic (AC) and midwater trawl (MT) surveys of spawning cisco (Coregonus artedi) in Lake Superior have been combined with commercial yield to estimate exploitation. To time surveys properly, it is important to understand when adults typically arrive at spawning grounds and how numbers change as the spawning season progresses. We conducted repeat autumn surveys during nighttime hours at coastal sites where commercial roe fisheries occur. Spawner densities increased significantly from October to mid-November, but differences measured at sites sampled from mid- to late-November were comparatively small. Spawners occupied the upper 20–30 m of the water column during mid-November before utilizing a wider range of depths by late-November. We compared repeat AC densities to temporal trends of catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) in suspended commercial gillnets and found good agreement within sites. Because different gillnet mesh sizes were used in each roe fishery. CPUE and AC density were poorly correlated among sites. We recommend that future surveys be conducted between mid- and late-November, and that MT gear be used to measure cisco densities in the uppermost 10 m of the water column where AC estimates may be conservative. Given the short temporal window for assessing spawner density, we believe both AC-MT and gillnet surveys will be needed to ensure that harvest of different stocks is kept at a sustainable level.