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Status and trends of prey fish populations in Lake Michigan, 2012

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

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Abstract

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 2012. 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 2012 was estimated at 9 kilotonnes (kt, 1 kt = 1000 metric tonnes), which continues the trend of unusually low alewife biomass since 2004 but represented a 20% increase from the 2011 estimate. The age distribution of alewives larger than 100 mm was dominated (i.e., 84%) by age-2. Record low biomass was observed for several species, including bloater (0.4 kt), rainbow smelt (0.1 kt), deepwater sculpin (1.5 kt), and ninespine stickleback (0.01 kt). Slimy sculpin lake-wide biomass was 0.73 kt in 2012, which was the third consecutive year revealing a decline. Estimated biomass of round goby increased by 79% to 3 kt. Burbot lake-wide biomass (0.5 kt in 2012) has remained below 3 kt since 2001. Numeric density of age-0 yellow perch (i.e., < 100 mm) was only 2 fish per ha, which is indicative of a relatively poor year-class. Lake-wide biomass estimates of dreissenid mussels have continued to increase from 2010, from 12 to 95 kt in 2012. 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 2012 was 15 kt, which represented the lowest total biomass of the time series.

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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, 2012
Series title Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Committee Meeting Report
Year Published 2012
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description 15 p.
Country United States
Other Geospatial Lake Michigan
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