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Status and trends of the Lake Huron prey fish community, 1976-2022

May 16, 2023

The United States Geological Survey-Great Lakes Science Center has monitored annual changes in the offshore prey fish community of Lake Huron since 1973. Monitoring of prey fish populations in Lake Huron is based on a bottom trawl survey that targets demersal (benthic) species and an acoustic-midwater trawl survey that targets pelagic species and life stages. Status of the main basin prey fish community in 2022 was considered ‘Fair’ due to sustained improvements in native species status but species diversity that remains below desired levels. Current lake conditions, characterized by ongoing oligotrophication, seem to favor native coregonines like Bloater (Coregonus artedi), which in the main basin has exhibited signs of population growth and strong recruitment in recent years, and Cisco (Coregonus artedi), whose biomass in the North Channel increased for the second consecutive year in 2022. In contrast, conditions in the main basin are less favorable for exotic prey fish such as Alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus), whose population collapsed in 2014 and has not recovered, and Rainbow Smelt (Osmerus mordax), which remains the second-most abundant prey species in the main basin but has produced multiple weak year classes over the past decade including in 2022. Status of benthic prey fish in the main basin in 2022 depended on species. As in prior years, the native sculpin community in 2022 consisted primarily of Deepwater Sculpin (Myoxocephalus thompsoni) because Slimy Sculpin (Cottus cognatus) has become exceedingly rare. In contrast, biomass of the ecologically similar Round Goby (Neogobius melanostomus), an exotic species, reached an all-time high in 2022. Use of complementary surveys (bottom trawl, acoustics) remains important for evaluating prey fish status in Lake Huron, where prey fish community dynamics vary by basin and prey fish responses to changing environmental conditions depend on species and/or habitat.

Publication Year 2023
Title Status and trends of the Lake Huron prey fish community, 1976-2022
Authors Darryl W. Hondorp, Timothy P. O'Brien, Edward F. Roseman, Peter C. Esselman
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Organization Series
Index ID 70243670
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Great Lakes Science Center