Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Lake Ontario cisco population dynamics based on long-term surveys

December 15, 2021

Prior to European settlement, cisco (Coregonus artedi) were likely one of Lake Ontario’s most abundant fishes but currently represent a small portion of the fish community. To understand how the population has changed over the past 70 years we compared trends in annual catch rates from gillnet and bottom trawl surveys and commercial fishery landings. In surveys, cisco were generally rare, and represented 0.2, 0.4, and 0.001% of all fish caught in two gillnet surveys and bottom trawl surveys. Cisco catch rates in gillnets and trawls were positively correlated and correlations increased when gillnet catches two years later were compared to trawls since trawls tended to capture smaller, juvenile-sized cisco relative to gillnets. Survey catch rates suggest recruitment is generally low, but discrete periods of relatively greater recruitment in the 1980s and mid-2010s suggest reproductive conditions for cisco vary temporally. Trawl surveys were the most spatially extensive survey and illustrated catch rates were highest in northeastern Lake Ontario. Greater cisco abundance in this region may be related to more-abundant embayment spawning habitat, greater distance from winter aggregations of nonnative planktivores, or more appropriate environmental conditions during spawing. At the basin scale, Lake Ontario bottom trawl catch per unit effort (CPUE) was positively correlated to Lake Superior trawl CPUE suggesting a regional driver, such as climate, may be similarly impacting both populations. Concurrent patterns across Lake Ontario surveys support the idea that cisco are currently a small portion of the fish community, recruitment remains inconsistent, and habitats in northeastern Lake Ontario appear critical to the remnant populations.

Publication Year 2021
Title Lake Ontario cisco population dynamics based on long-term surveys
DOI 10.1127/adv_limnol/2021/0070
Authors Brian C. Weidel, James A. Hoyle, Michael Connerton, Jeremy Holden, Mark Vinson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Advances in Limnology
Index ID 70233926
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Great Lakes Science Center