Status and trends of prey fish populations in Lake Michigan, 2018

Annual Report
By: , and 



The U.S. Geological Survey Great Lakes Science Center has conducted lake-wide surveys of the fish community in Lake Michigan each fall since 1973 using standard 12 m bottom trawls towed along contour at depths of 9 to 110 m at each of seven index transects. The survey provides relative abundance and biomass estimates between the 5 m and 114 m depth contours of the lake for prey fish populations, as well as for burbot and yellow perch. The resulting data are used to estimate various population parameters that are in turn used by state and tribal agencies in managing Lake Michigan fish stocks. All seven established index transects of the survey were completed in 2018, although depths 64 m and greater offshore of Frankfort could not be completed due to excessive dreissenid mussel biomass on our multiple tow attempts. Mean biomass of alewives in 2018 was estimated at 0.54 kg/ha, which was the highest value since 2013, but still only 6.7% of the long-term average (7.96 kg/ha). Age distribution of alewives remained truncated with no alewife age exceeding 5 years. Bloater biomass was 2.60 kg/ha in 2018, relatively unchanged from 2017, but still only 14% of the long-term average. Round goby biomass was 1.25 kg/ha in 2018, the 3rd largest estimate in the time series and 62% higher than the average since they were first sampled in 2003. Rainbow smelt biomass was 0.45 kg/ha, which was the highest since 2006 but only 21% of the long-term average. Likewise, deepwater sculpin biomass was 1.30 kg/ha in 2018, which was the highest since 2007 but only 20% of the long-term average. Slimy sculpin biomass was only 0.07 kg/ha in 2018, and similar to the very low levels estimated since 2012 and only 17% of the long-term average. Ninespine stickleback remained very rare in 2018 (0.004 kg/ha), and only 1% of the long-term average. Overall, the total prey fish biomass (sum of alewife, bloater, rainbow smelt, deepwater sculpin, slimy sculpin, round goby, and ninespine stickleback) in 2018 was 6.22 kg/ha, roughly 65% greater than in 2017 but still only 17% of the long-term average. With respect to other species of interest, burbot biomass was only 0.04 kg/ha in 2018 (18% of the long-term average) and no age-0 yellow perch were caught in 2018, indicating a weak year-class.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Title Status and trends of prey fish populations in Lake Michigan, 2018
Series title Annual Report
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Great Lakes Fishery Commission
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description 17 p.
Country United States
Other Geospatial Lake Michigan
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