Deepwater sculpin are important in oligotrophic lakes as one of the few fishes that use deep profundal habitats and link invertebrates in those habitats to piscivores. In Lake Ontario the species was once abundant, however drastic declines in the mid-1900s led some to suggest the species had been extirpated and ultimately led Canadian and U.S. agencies to elevate the species' conservation status. Following two decades of surveys with no captures, deepwater sculpin were first caught in low numbers in 1996 and by the early 2000s there were indications of population recovery. We updated the status of Lake Ontario deepwater sculpin through 2016 to inform resource management and conservation. Our data set was comprised of 8431 bottom trawls sampled from 1996 to 2016, in U.S. and Canadian waters spanning depths from 5 to 225 m. Annual density estimates generally increased from 1996 through 2016, and an exponential model estimated the rate of population increase was ~ 59% per year. The mean total length and the proportion of fish greater than the estimated length at maturation (~ 116 mm) generally increased until a peak in 2013. In addition, the mean length of all deepwater sculpin captured in a trawl significantly increased with depth. Across all years examined, deepwater sculpin densities generally increased with depth, increasing sharply at depths > 150 m. Bottom trawl observations suggest the Lake Ontario deepwater sculpin population has recovered and current densities and biomass densities may now be similar to the other Great Lakes.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Deepwater sculpin status and recovery in Lake Ontario|
|Series title||Journal of Great Lakes Research|
|Contributing office(s)||Great Lakes Science Center|
|Other Geospatial||Lake Ontario|