The cisco Coregonus artedi was once the most abundant fish species in the Great Lakes, but currently cisco populations are greatly reduced and management agencies are attempting to restore the species throughout the basin. To increase understanding of the spatial scale at which density-independent and density-dependent factors influence cisco recruitment dynamics in the Great Lakes, we used a Ricker stock–recruitment model to identify and quantify the appropriate spatial scale for modeling age-1 cisco recruitment dynamics in Lake Superior. We found that the recruitment variation of ciscoes in Lake Superior was best described by a five-parameter regional model with separate stock–recruitment relationships for the western, southern, eastern, and northern regions. The spatial scale for modeling was about 260 km (range = 230–290 km). We also found that the density-independent recruitment rate and the rate of compensatory density dependence varied among regions at different rates. The density-independent recruitment rate was constant among regions (3.6 age-1 recruits/spawner), whereas the rate of compensatory density dependence varied 16-fold among regions (range = −0.2 to −2.9/spawner). Finally, we found that peak recruitment and the spawning stock size that produced peak recruitment varied among regions. Both peak recruitment (0.5–7.1 age-1 recruits/ha) and the spawning stock size that produced peak recruitment (0.3–5.3 spawners/ha) varied 16-fold among regions. Our findings support the hypothesis that the factors driving cisco recruitment operate within four different regions of Lake Superior, suggest that large-scale abiotic factors are more important than small-scale biotic factors in influencing cisco recruitment, and suggest that fishery managers throughout Lake Superior and the entire Great Lakes basin should address cisco restoration and management efforts on a regional scale in each lake.
Additional publication details
The spatial scale for cisco recruitment dynamics in Lake Superior during 1978-2007