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Status and trends of the Lake Huron prey fish community, 1976-2019

March 1, 2022

The USGS Great Lakes Science Center has assessed annual changes in the offshore prey fish community of Lake Huron since 1973. Assessments are based on a bottom trawl survey conducted in October of each year and an acoustics-midwater trawl survey, which began in 2004 and is conducted in September-October. Both surveys were completed in their entirety in 2019. Prey fish biomass in Lake Huron in 2019 was dominated by two species, Bloater (Coregonus hoyi) and Rainbow Smelt (Osmerus mordax). In the main basin, prey fish biomass remained below levels observed prior to community-wide declines that began in the early to mid 1990s. Bloater was the most abundant prey fish species in the main basin, whereas Rainbow Smelt was the most abundant prey species in the North Channel and in Georgian Bay. Both surveys suggested that Bloater biomass is increasing in the main basin. Low biomass of invasive species like Alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) and Rainbow Smelt is consistent with fish community objectives focused on restoration of native fish communities. Abundance of invasive Round Goby (Neogobius melanostomus) in 2019 was low relative to 2018. Biomass of the native Cisco (Coregonus artedi) continued to increase in the North Channel and Georgian Bay. Biomass of slimy sculpin (Cottus cognatus) and Deepwater Sculpin (Myoxocephalus thompsoni) in 2019 was down from 2018 but within the range observed over the past decade. Reduced lake productivity, predation by a recovering piscivore community, and shifts in food web dynamics that favor fish production in nearshore environments may prevent prey fish biomass in offshore areas from returning to levels observed prior to the early 1990’s. However, increased biomass of Bloater and Cisco suggests that lake conditions may favor recovery of native coregonids.

Publication Year 2022
Title Status and trends of the Lake Huron prey fish community, 1976-2019
Authors Darryl W. Hondorp, Timothy P. O'Brien, Peter C. Esselman, Edward F. Roseman
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Organization Series
Index ID 70221717
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Great Lakes Science Center