Status of pelagic prey fishes in Lake Michigan, 2012

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Acoustic surveys were conducted in late summer/early fall during the years 1992-1996 and 2001-2012 to estimate pelagic prey fish biomass in Lake Michigan. Midwater trawling during the surveys as well as target strength provided a measure of species and size composition of the fish community for use in scaling acoustic data and providing species-specific abundance estimates. The 2012 survey consisted of 26 acoustic transects (576 km total) and 31 midwater tows. Mean total prey fish biomass was 6.4 kg/ha (relative standard error, RSE = 15%) or 31 kilotonnes (kt = 1,000 metric tons), which was 1.5 times the estimate for 2011 and 22% of the long-term mean. The increase from 2011 resulted from increased biomass of age-0 alewife, age-1 or older alewife, and large bloater. The abundance of the 2012 alewife year class was similar to the average, and this year-class contributed 35% of total alewife biomass (4.9 kg/ha, RSE = 17%), while the 2010 alewife year-class contributed 58%. The 2010 year class made up 89% of age-1 or older alewife biomass. In 2012, alewife comprised 77% of total prey fish biomass, while rainbow smelt and bloater were 4 and 19% of total biomass, respectively. Rainbow smelt biomass in 2012 (0.25 kg/ha, RSE = 17%) was 40% of the rainbow smelt biomass in 2011 and 5% of the long term mean. Bloater biomass was much lower (1.2 kg/ha, RSE = 12%) than in the 1990s, and mean density of small bloater in 2012 (191 fish/ha, RSE = 24%) was lower than peak values observed in 2007-2009. In 2012, pelagic prey fish biomass in Lake Michigan was similar to Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Prey fish biomass remained well below the Fish Community Objectives target of 500-800 kt, and key native species remain absent or rare.

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Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Title Status of pelagic prey fishes in Lake Michigan, 2012
Year Published 2012
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description 12 p.
Country United States
Other Geospatial Lake Michigan
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