Status and trends in the Lake Superior fish community, 2022

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In 2022, the Lake Superior fish community was sampled with daytime bottom and surface trawls at 71 nearshore locations in May-June and 35 offshore locations in July, and at 51 Coordinated Science and Monitoring Initiative (CSMI) locations in July-October with bottom trawls, surface trawls, mid-water trawls and acoustics that were previously sampled in 2011 and 2016. Nearshore bottom trawls collected 11,603 fish from 25 species or morphotypes. Nearshore mean biomass was 1.6 kg per ha which was one of the lowest biomass estimates over survey’s 45-year history. Offshore bottom trawls collected 13,876 fish from 11 species or morphotypes. Offshore mean biomass was 5.1 kg per ha, which was less than the annual average since 2011 of 6.5 kg per ha. Recruitment, as measured by age-1 densities, was near zero for Bloater (Coregonus hoyi), Cisco (C. artedi), and Kiyi (C. kiyi), 2 age-1 fish per ha for Lake Whitefish (C. clupeaformis) and 77 age-1 fish for Rainbow Smelt (Osmerus mordax). All were less than the long-term averages. Sampling at the CSMI locations collected 26 species and morphotypes. The most abundant species’ lakewide were Deepwater Sculpin (all years), young-of-year ciscoe (Bloater, Cisco, and Kiyi, 2022), and Rainbow Smelt (2011 and 2016). Cisco had the highest estimated lakewide biomass in 2011 and 2022 and siscowet Lake Trout had the highest estimated lakewide biomass in 2016. Native species were more abundant than invasive species by numbers (80, 65, and 92%) and biomass (94, 93, 96%) in 2011, 2016, and 2022, respectively. 

Total lakewide benthic fish biomass declined from 47 thousand metric tons in 2011 to 29 thousand metric tons in 2016 and increased to 33 thousand metric tons in 2022. Total lakewide pelagic fish biomass declined from 61 thousand metric tons in 2011 to 25 thousand metric tons in 2016 and increased to 54 thousand metric tons in 2022. The most unexpected result from our sampling in 2022 was the 2 billion age-0 ciscoe estimate from the mid-water trawl and acoustic sampling in August-October. These fish were broadly distributed across the lake, being collected at 53 of the 54 locations, and their population estimates were highest in the depths >100 m. The factors underlying the survival of these ciscoes into late summer in 2022 as compared to previous years have not been identified, but our annual population surveys of larval ciscoes suggests that lake conditions in June and July may have differed from previous years and enhanced survival. In 2022, ciscoe larval densities in May were lower than average (likely due to a cold winter and spring that delayed hatching), June densities were similar to previous years, and July density estimates were more than double that of any previous year’s estimate.

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Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Organization Series
Title Status and trends in the Lake Superior fish community, 2022
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher Great Lakes Fishery Commission
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description 54 p.
Country Canada, United States
Other Geospatial Lake Superior
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
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