Status and trends of prey fish populations in Lake Superior, 2008

By: , and 



The Great Lakes Science Center has conducted annual daytime bottom trawl surveys of the Lake Superior nearshore (15-80 m bathymetric depth zone) every spring since 1978 to provide a long-term index of relative abundance and biomass of the fish community. Between May 5 and June 14, 2008, 58 stations were sampled around the perimeter of the lake with 12-m wide bottom trawls. Trawls were deployed cross-contour at median start and end depths of 17 and 55 m, respectively. The lakewide mean relative biomass estimate for the entire fish community was 4.61 kg/ha which was similar to that measured in 2007, 4.81 kg/ha. Dominant species in the catch were lake whitefish, rainbow smelt, longnose sucker and cisco, which represented 49, 18, 11, and 7 % of the total community biomass, respectively. Compared to 2007 levels, lake whitefish and cisco biomass increased 35% and 55%, respectively, while bloater and rainbow smelt biomass declined 69% and 41%, respectively. Increased biomass of lake whitefish and decreased biomass in bloater represent trends observed since 2007; however, reversed trends in biomass were observed for cisco and rainbow smelt. Year-class strength for the 2007 cisco cohort (0.20 fish/ha) was below the long-term (1977-2007) average (73.31 fish/ha), as was year-class strength for the 2007 bloater cohort (0.33 fish/ha) compared to the long-term average (11.11 fish/ha). Smelt year class strength (226.26 fish/ha) continues a trend of increasing strength from a 31-year low of 56.75 fish/ha in 2001 and was above the long-term average of 193.81 fish/ha. The 2008 cisco age structure was dominated by age 5 and older fish, which accounted for 82% of the mean relative density. Wisconsin waters continue to be the most productive (mean total community biomass of 17.09 kg/ha), followed by western Ontario (5.40 kg/ha), eastern Ontario (3.08 kg/ha), Michigan (2.82 kg/ha), and Minnesota (0.89 kg/ha).

Densities of small (400 mm) hatchery lake trout continued a pattern of decline observed since 1993-1996 to 0.04, 0.03 and 0.01 fish/ha in 2008, respectively. Densities of small and large wild (lean) lake trout continued a decreasing trend observed since 1996-1998. From 2007 to 2008, density of small lean lake trout declined from 0.29 to 0.15 fish/ha, the lowest value since 1978. Density of large lean lake trout has been relatively stable since 1986 but more recently density declined from 0.43 fish/ha in 2006 to 0.10 fish/ha in 2008. Density of intermediate size lean lake trout showed a small increase from 0.31 in 2007 to 0.41 fish/ha in 2008. Siscowet lake trout have shown a pattern of variable but increasing density since 1980. Since 2006, densities of small and intermediate size siscowet lake trout have increased from 0.10 to 0.12 and 0.08 to 0.15 fish/ha, respectively. Densities of large siscowet lake trout have fluctuated between 0.10 and 0.07 fish/ha since 2000. In 2008 the proportions of total lake trout density that were hatchery, lean and siscowet were 8, 60, and 32%, respectively.

Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Status and trends of prey fish populations in Lake Superior, 2008
Year Published 2009
Language English
Publisher Great Lakes Fishery Commission
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description 10 p.
Conference Title Great Lakes Fishery Commission: Lake Superior Committee Meeting
Conference Date March 25, 2009
Country Canada, United States
Other Geospatial Lake Superior