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Fisheries research and monitoring activities of the Lake Erie Biological Station, 2015

January 1, 2016

In 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Lake Erie Biological Station (LEBS) 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 Fish Community Assessment as well as contributing to the cooperative multi-agency Central Basin Hydroacoustics Assessment, the Eastern Basin Coldwater Community Assessment, and Lower Trophic Level Assessment (see Forage and Coldwater Task Group reports). In 2015, LEBS also initiated a Lake Erie Central Basin Trawling survey in response to the need for forage fish data from Management Unit 3 (as defined by the Yellow Perch Task Group). Results from these surveys contribute to Lake Erie Committee Fish Community Goals and Objectives. Our 2015 vessel operations were initiated in early April and continued into late November. During this time, crews of the R/V Muskie and R/V Bowfin deployed 121 bottom trawls covering 83.2 ha of lake-bottom and catching 105,600 fish totaling 4,065 kg during four separate trawl surveys in the western and central basins of Lake Erie. We deployed and lifted 9.5 km of gillnet, which caught an additional 805 fish, 100 (337 kg) of which were the native coldwater predators Lake Trout, Burbot, and Lake Whitefish (these data are reported in the 2016 Coldwater Task Group report). We also conducted 317 km of hydroacoustic survey transects (reported in the 2016 Forage Task Group report), collected 114 lower trophic (i.e. zooplankton and benthos) samples, and obtained 216 water quality observations (e.g., temperature profiles, and water samples). The LEBS also assisted CLC member agencies with the maintenance and expansion of GLATOS throughout all three Lake Erie sub-basins. Within the following report sections, we describe results from three trawl surveys – the spring and autumn Western Basin Forage Fish Assessment and the East Harbor Forage Fish Assessment – and the Lower Trophic Level Assessment conducted in 2015, and examine trends in the fish community structure and trophic status of Lake Erie. Results of our central basin trawl survey are reported in the 2016 Yellow Perch Task Group report.

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