Date of this Version
Published in North American Journal of Fisheries Management 21:876–883, 2001.
We evaluated the long-term trends of the benthic macroinvertebrate community (1980–1999) and biological attributes of lake whitefish Coregonus clupeaformis (1985–1999) in southeastern Lake Michigan. We also determined what food types were important to lake whitefish in an area where the amphipod Diporeia had not yet declined in 1998 and how the diet of lake whitefish changed as Diporeia declined during 1999–2000. Zebra mussels Dreissena polymorpha invaded the study area in 1992; Diporeia began to decline in 1993 and was nearly absent by 1999. The body condition of lake whitefish decreased after 1993 and remained low thereafter. The length at age and weight at age of lake whitefish was lower in 1992–1999 than in 1985–1991. After declines of Diporeia off the city of Muskegon, Michigan, between 1998 and 1999–2000, the proportion of Diporeia in the diet by weight fell from 70% to 25% and the percent occurrence decreased from 81% to 45%. In contrast, the proportion of lake whitefish that ate other prey, such as Mysis relicta (an opossum shrimp), ostracods, oligochaetes, and zooplankton, increased in the same period. At sites south of Muskegon, where the density of Diporeia has been low since 1998, chironomids, zebra mussels, and fingernail clams (Shaeriidae family) were the most important diet items of lake whitefish. Decreases in body condition and growth are associated with the loss of the high-energy prey resource Diporeia, the consumption of prey with lower energy content, such as zebra mussels, and possible density-dependence. Commercial harvests of lake whitefish will probably decrease because of low body condition and growth. Future management may require changes in harvest quotas, size restrictions, and depth restrictions as zebra mussel-related impacts spread northward in Lake Michigan.