Defining and characterizing coolwater streams and their fish assemblages in Michigan and Wisconsin, USA

North American Journal of Fisheries Management
By: , and 



Coolwater streams, which are intermediate in character between coldwater “trout” streams and more diverse warmwater streams, occur widely in temperate regions but are poorly understood. We used modeled water temperature data and fish assemblage samples from 371 stream sites in Michigan and Wisconsin to define, describe, and map coolwater streams and their fish assemblages. We defined coolwater streams as ones having summer water temperatures suitable for both coldwater and warmwater species and used the observed distributions of the 99 fish species at our sites to identify coolwater thermal boundaries. Coolwater streams had June-through-August mean water temperatures of 17.0–20.5°C, July mean temperatures of 17.5–21.0°C, and maximum daily mean temperatures of 20.7–24.6°C. We delineated two subclasses of coolwater streams: “cold transition” (having July mean water temperatures of 17.5–19.5°C) and “warm transition” (having July mean temperatures of 19.5–21.0°C). Fish assemblages in coolwater streams were variable and lacked diagnostic species but were generally intermediate in species richness and overlapped in composition with coldwater and warmwater streams. In cold-transition streams, coldwater (e.g., salmonids and cottids) and transitional species (e.g., creek chub Semotilus atromaculatus, eastern blacknose dace Rhynichthys atratulus, white sucker Catostomus commersonii, and johnny darter Etheostoma nigrum) were common and warmwater species (e.g., ictalurids and centrarchids) were uncommon; in warm-transition streams warmwater and transitional species were common and coldwater species were uncommon. Coolwater was the most widespread and abundant thermal class in Michigan and Wisconsin, comprising 65% of the combined total stream length in the two states (cold-transition streams being more common than warm-transition ones). Our approach can be used to identify and characterize coolwater streams elsewhere in the temperate region, benefiting many aspects of fisheries management and environmental protection.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Defining and characterizing coolwater streams and their fish assemblages in Michigan and Wisconsin, USA
Series title North American Journal of Fisheries Management
DOI 10.1577/M08-118.1
Volume 29
Issue 4
Year Published 2009
Language English
Publisher Taylor & Francis
Contributing office(s) Wisconsin Water Science Center
Description 22 p.
First page 1130
Last page 1151
Country United States
State Michigan, Wisconsin
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional metadata about this publication, not found in other parts of the page is in this table