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Fisheries research and monitoring activities of the Lake Erie Biological Station, 2019

April 30, 2020

A comprehensive understanding of fish populations and their interactions is the cornerstone of modern fishery management and the basis for Fish Community Goals and Objectives for Lake Erie (Ryan et al. 2003). This report is responsive to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) obligations via Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Great Lakes Council of Lake Committees (CLC) to provide scientific information in support of fishery management. Goals for the USGS Great Lakes Deepwater Fish Assessment and Ecological Studies in 2019 were to monitor long-term changes in the fish community and population dynamics of key fishes of interest to management agencies. Specific to Lake Erie, expectations of this agreement were sustained investigations of native percids, forage (prey) fish populations, and Lake Trout.

Our 2019 deepwater program operations began in April and concluded in December, and utilized trawl, gillnet, hydroacoustic, lower trophic sampling, and telemetry methods. This work resulted in 88 bottom trawls covering 65 ha of lake-bottom and catching 24,140 fish totaling 3,622 kg during three separate trawl surveys in the West and Central basins of Lake Erie. Overnight gillnet sets (n=44) for cold water species were performed at 42 unique locations in the West and East basins of Lake Erie. A total of 8.0 km of gillnet was deployed during these surveys, which caught 286 fish, 114 of which were native coldwater species: Lake Trout, Burbot, and Lake Whitefish. USGS hydroacoustic surveys in 2019 produced 240 km of transects, and lower trophic sampling provided data from zooplankton samples (n=21) and water quality profiles (n=21) to populate a database maintained by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF), Ohio Division of Natural Resources (ODNR), Michigan Division of Natural Resources (MDNR), Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). USGS also assisted CLC member agencies with deployment and maintenance of the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System (GLATOS) throughout all three Lake Erie sub-basins, supporting multiple coordinated telemetry investigations.

In 2019, Lake Trout investigations included annual gill net surveys and acoustic telemetry of spawning migration and habitat use in coordination with OMNRF, NYSDEC, and PFBC. Results from Lake Trout investigations were reported in the Coldwater Task Group annual report to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) and the CLC (Coldwater Task Group 2020). Likewise, interagency forage fish assessments conducted with hydroacoustics were summarized and reported in the Forage Task Group annual report (Forage Task Group 2020).

This report presents biomass-based summaries of fish communities in western Lake Erie derived from USGS bottom trawl surveys conducted from 2013 to 2019 during June and September. The survey design provided temporal and spatial coverage that did not exist in the historic interagency trawl database, and thus complemented the August ODNR-OMNRF effort to reinforce stock assessments with more robust data. Analyses herein evaluated trends in: total biomass, abundance of dominant predator and forage species, non-native species composition, biodiversity and community structure. Data from this effort can be explored interactively online (, and are accessible for download (, Keretz et al. 2020). Annual survey data are added to these sources as the data become available.

Publication Year 2020
Title Fisheries research and monitoring activities of the Lake Erie Biological Station, 2019
Authors Kevin R. Keretz, Patrick Kočovský, Richard Kraus, Joseph Schmitt
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Series Title Lake Erie Biological Station Annual Report
Index ID 70219907
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Great Lakes Science Center