Densities, diets, and growth rates of larval Alewife and Bloater in a changing Lake Michigan ecosystem.
Variability in abiotic and biotic factors during larval stages has profound impacts on fish recruitment. In Lake Michigan, where the composition of lower trophic levels has undergone considerable changes in the past decade, managers are concerned that fish recruitment could be negatively affected. We hypothesized that spatial variation in Lake Michigan larval fish density and growth can be explained by various environmental predictor variables. In July 2015, we sampled larval fish and zooplankton at 24 sites (distributed among eight transects) around Lake Michigan. We measured larval fish densities and estimated growth rates and diets of the two most abundant species: the Alewife Alosa pseudoharengus and Bloater Coregonus hoyi (prey fish that represented 89% and 4% of the total catch, respectively). Larval Alewife densities at a given site ranged from 0 to 42.57 larvae/100 m3, but no explanatory variables explained the variation. Alewife mean growth rate equaled 0.50 mm/d, and fish age and zooplankton density best explained growth variation across sites. Larval Bloater densities ranged from 0 to 1.16 larvae/100 m3, and mean growth rate was 0.21 mm/d. Across all sites, 67% of larval Alewife stomachs were empty, whereas only 16% of Bloater stomachs were empty. Larval fish growth rates observed in our study were at least 40% slower than those reported in previous decades for both Alewife and Bloater. Worsening prey environment for pelagic larvae, such as Alewife and Bloater, during the era of abundant dreissenid mussels could reduce the probability of strong year‐classes, which in turn may affect growth and survival of recreationally important salmonine predators.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Densities, diets, and growth rates of larval Alewife and Bloater in a changing Lake Michigan ecosystem.|
|Series title||Transactions of the American Fisheries Society|
|Contributing office(s)||Great Lakes Science Center|
|State||Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin|
|City||Frankfort, Ludington, Manitowoc, Racine, St. Joseph, Saugatuck, Sturgeon Bay, Waukegan|
|Other Geospatial||Lake Michigan|