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Status and trends of the Lake Huron offshore Demersal fish community, 1976-2013

March 24, 2014

The USGS Great Lakes Science Center has conducted trawl surveys to assess annual changes in the offshore demersal fish community of Lake Huron since 1973. Sample sites include five ports in U.S. waters with less frequent sampling near Goderich, Ontario. The 2013 fall bottom trawl survey was carried out between 25 October – 21 November 2013 and included all U.S. ports as well as Goderich, ON. The 2013 main basin prey fish biomass estimate for Lake Huron was 47 kilotonnes, less than half of the estimate in 2012 (97 Kt), and approximately 13 percent of the maximum estimate in the time series. The biomass etimate for YAO alewife in 2013 was lower than in 2012, remained much lower than levels observed before the crash in 2004, and populations were dominated by small fish. Estimated biomass of rainbow smelt also decreased and was the second lowest observed in the time series. Estimated YAO bloater biomass in Lake Huron was also reduced compared to 2012. YOY alewife, rainbow smelt, and bloater abundance and biomass increased over 2012. Biomass estimates for deepwater and slimy sculpins, trout-perch, ninespine stickleback, and round goby in 2013 were lower than in 2012 and remained low compared to historic estimates. Wild juvenile lake trout were captured again in 2013, suggesting that natural reproduction by lake trout continues to occur.