In 2013, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Lake Erie Biological Station successfully completed large vessel surveys in all three of Lake Erie’s basins. Lake Erie Biological Station’s primary vessel surveys included the Western Basin Forage Fish Assessment and East Harbor Forage Fish Assessment as well as contributing to the cooperative multi-agency Central Basin Hydroacoustics Assessment and the Eastern Basin Coldwater Community Assessment (see Forage Task Group and Coldwater Task Group reports, respectively). Further large vessel sampling included individual research data collection as well as assisting with University (e.g., University of Toledo) and agency (e.g., USFWS, USEPA) large vessel sampling needs. Our 2013 vessel operations began on April 4th and concluded on November 21 with a total of 77 large vessel sampling days (83 total days). During this time, crews of the R/V Muskie and R/V Bowfin deployed 174 trawls covering 147 km of lake-bottom, over 13 km of gillnet, collected hydroacoustic data that extended over 250 km of the central and eastern basins, and approximately 180 collective zooplankton, benthos, and water samples.
2013 was the first complete sampling year using the R/V Muskie. Technologies available on the new platform provided opportunities for LEBS to improve data sampling methods and results. An investment was made in mensuration gear for the trawls. This gear is attached to the trawl’s headrope, footrope, and wings; thus, allowing measurement of the area swept and conversion of catches to densities. Another improvement included real-time output of water parameter sonde profiles (e.g., temperature, dissolved oxygen). The ability to view profile data on a tablet allowed quick identification of thermoclines as well as the presence (or absence) of hypoxia. Minor modifications were made to survey designs relative to last year (see 2013 report), and thus, collection of long-term data from the R/V Muskie has commenced. One minor change was that we are now indexing yellow perch maturation data during our fall trawl surveys in response to a request from the Lake Erie Yellow Perch Task Group. Within the following sections, we describe results from our 2013 sampling efforts in Lake Erie.