Lake Whitefish Coregonus clupeaformis support some of the most valuable commercial freshwater fisheries in North America. Recent growth and condition decreases in Lake Whitefish populations in the Great Lakes have been attributed to the invasion of the dreissenid mussels, zebra mussels Dreissena polymorpha and quagga mussels D. bugensis, and the subsequent collapse of the amphipod, Diporeia, a once-abundant high energy prey source. Since 1993, Lake Champlain has also experienced the invasion and proliferation of zebra mussels, but in contrast to the Great Lakes, Diporeia were not historically abundant. We compared the diet, condition, and energy density of Lake Whitefish from Lake Champlain after the dreissenid mussel invasion to values for those of Lake Whitefish from Lakes Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario. Lake Whitefish were collected using gill nets and bottom trawls, and their diets were quantified seasonally. Condition was estimated using Fulton's condition factor (K) and by determining energy density. In contrast to Lake Whitefish from some of the Great Lakes, those from Lake Champlain Lake Whitefish did not show a dietary shift towards dreissenid mussels, but instead fed primarily on fish eggs in spring, Mysis diluviana in summer, and gastropods and sphaeriids in fall and winter. Along with these dietary differences, the condition and energy density of Lake Whitefish from Lake Champlain were high compared with those of Lake Whitefish from Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Ontario after the dreissenid invasion, and were similar to Lake Whitefish from Lake Erie; fish from Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Ontario consumed dreissenids, whereas fish from Lake Erie did not. Our comparisons of Lake Whitefish populations in Lake Champlain to those in the Great Lakes indicate that diet and condition of Lake Champlain Lake Whitefish were not negatively affected by the dreissenid mussel invasion.
Additional publication details
Lake whitefish diet, condition, and energy density in Lake Champlain and the lower four Great Lakes following dreissenid invasions