Status of pelagic prey fishes in Lake Michigan, 2015

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Abstract

Acoustic surveys were conducted in late summer/early fall during the years 1992-1996 and 2001-2015 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 2015 survey consisted of 27 acoustic transects (580 km total) and 31 midwater trawl tows. Four additional transects were sampled in Green Bay but were not included in lakewide estimates. Mean prey fish biomass was 4.2 kg/ha [20.3 kilotonnes (kt = 1,000 metric tons)], equivalent to 44.8 million pounds, which was 36% lower than in 2014 (31.7 kt) and 17% of the long-term (20 years) mean. The numeric density of the 2015 alewife yearclass was 25% of the time series average and nearly 9 times the 2014 density. This year-class contributed 8% of total alewife biomass (3.4 kg/ha). In 2015, alewife comprised 82.5% of total prey fish biomass, while rainbow smelt and bloater were <1% and 16.9% of total biomass, respectively. Rainbow smelt biomass in 2015 (0.02 kg/ha) was 74% lower than in 2014, <1% of the long-term mean, and lower than in any previous year. Bloater biomass in 2015 was 0.7 kg/ha and 8% of the long-term mean. Mean density of small bloater in 2015 (489 fish/ha) was slightly lower than peak values observed in 2008-2009 but was more than three times the time series mean (142 fish/ha).

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Other Report
Title Status of pelagic prey fishes in Lake Michigan, 2015
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Great Lakes Science Center
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description 10 p.
Larger Work Title Compiled reports to the Great Lake Fishery Commission of the annual bottom trawl and acoustics surveys, 2015
First page 64
Last page 73