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Status and trends of the Lake Huron prey fish community, 1976-2020

January 1, 2022

The USGS Great Lakes Science Center (GLSC) 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 and an acoustics-midwater trawl survey conducted in September-October. In 2020, USGS-GLSC vessels were not permitted to cross into Canada due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so prey fish surveys sampled only sites in U.S. (Michigan) waters of Lake Huron. This prevented USGS from providing information about the current status and trends of prey fish communities in Georgian Bay and the North Channel. Prey fish biomass in U.S. waters of Lake Huron in 2020 remained below levels observed prior to community-wide declines that began in the early to mid-1990s. Fish community biomass was dominated by two species, Bloater (Coregonus hoyi) and Rainbow Smelt (Osmerus mordax). While both surveys found Bloater biomass in the main basin had declined from levels observed in 2019, Bloater still comprised over three-quarters of prey fish biomass in Lake Huron in 2020. Biomass and abundance for other prey fish species were within the range observed over the past five years. Current 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. 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, the dominance of Bloater in bottom trawl catches and acoustic surveys suggests that current lake conditions are conducive to the recovery of some native species.

Publication Year 2022
Title Status and trends of the Lake Huron prey fish community, 1976-2020
Authors Darryl W. Hondorp, Timothy P. O'Brien, Peter C. Esselman, Edward F. Roseman
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Report
Index ID 70226897
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Great Lakes Science Center