Status and trends of prey fish populations in Lake Michigan, 2013

Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Committee Meeting Report
By: , and 



The U.S. Geological Survey Great Lakes Science Center has conducted lake-wide surveys of the fish community in Lake Michigan each fall since 1973 using standard 12-m bottom trawls towed along contour at depths of 9 to 110 m at each of seven index transects. The resulting data on relative abundance, size and age structure, and condition of individual fishes are used to estimate various population parameters that are in turn used by state and tribal agencies in managing Lake Michigan fish stocks. All seven established index transects of the survey were completed in 2013. The survey provides relative abundance and biomass estimates between the 5-m and 114-m depth contours of the lake (herein, lake-wide) for prey fish populations, as well as burbot, yellow perch, and the introduced dreissenid mussels. Lake-wide biomass of alewives in 2013 was estimated at 29 kilotonnes (kt, 1 kt = 1000 metric tonnes), which was more than three times the 2012 estimate. However, the unusually high standard error associated with the 2013 estimate indicated no significant increase in lake-wide biomass between 2012 and 2013. Moreover, the age distribution of alewives remained truncated with no alewife exceeding an age of 5. The population of age-1 and older alewives was dominated (i.e., 88%) by the 2010 and 2012 year-classes. Record low biomass was observed for deepwater sculpin (1.3 kt) and ninespine stickleback (0.004 kt) in 2013, while bloater (1.6 kt) and rainbow smelt (0.2 kt) biomasses remained at low levels. Slimy sculpin lake-wide biomass was 0.32 kt in 2013, marking the fourth consecutive year of a decline. The 2013 biomass of round goby was estimated at 10.9 kt, which represented the peak estimate to date. Burbot lake-wide biomass (0.4 kt in 2013) has remained below 3 kt since 2001. Numeric density of age-0 yellow perch (i.e., < 100 mm) was only 1 fish per ha, which is indicative of a relatively poor year-class. Lake-wide biomass estimate of dreissenid mussels in 2013 was 23.2 kt. Overall, the total lake-wide prey fish biomass estimate (sum of alewife, bloater, rainbow smelt, deepwater sculpin, slimy sculpin, round goby, and ninespine stickleback) in 2013 was 43 kt, with alewives and round gobies constituting 92% of this total.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Title Status and trends of prey fish populations in Lake Michigan, 2013
Series title Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Committee Meeting Report
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher United States Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description 16 p.
Conference Title Great Lakes Fishery Commission
Conference Location Windsor, ON
Conference Date March 25, 2014
Country United States
Other Geospatial Lake Michigan