Long-term Changes in the Fish Assemblage in Sandybeach Lake, Northern Ontario, Following the Introduction of Rainbow Smelt (Osmerus mordax)
Keywords:Lake, invasive species, introduction, impact, Cisco, Coregonus artedi, Lake Whitefish, Coregonus clupeaformis, Rainbow Smelt, Osmerus mordax
Rainbow Smelt (Osmerus mordax, Mitchill, 1814) has been widely introduced into lakes across North America and are reported to have an adverse effect on native fishes. In this study, we investigated the long-term changes to the pelagic fish assemblage in a northwestern Ontario lake (Sandybeach Lake) after Rainbow Smelt were introduced in the 1980s. We repeated an earlier summer, pelagic gill-netting survey of Sandybeach Lake and a nearby reference lake (Little Vermillion Lake) that does not contain Rainbow Smelt. Fishes throughout the water column were sampled with overnight sets of 5.2-m-deep, multi-mesh horizontal gill-nets. Compared with 1990 pelagic sampling, native fishes were significantly less abundant, less diverse, and largely absent from the deeper parts of Sandybeach Lake in 2012. Cisco (Coregonus artedi, Lesueur, 1818), Emerald Shiner (Notropis atherinoides Rafinesque, 1818), and Lake Whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis, Mitchill, 1814) were notably absent in 2012. In contrast, Rainbow Smelt remained abundant at all depths sampled. A small number of ciscoes — including Shortjaw Cisco (Coregonus zenithicus (Jordan and Evermann, 1909)) — and Lake Whitefish were captured from benthic gill-nets. Based on the lack of ciscoes in pelagic gill-nets, the very old ages (mean 30 years) of the few individuals captured in benthic gill-nets, and a severely skewed sex ratio, it is highly likely that ciscoes will be extirpated from Sandybeach Lake. Although the composition of the pelagic fish assemblage differed between years, Cisco was still abundant in Little Vermillion Lake with the presence of young individuals indicating ongoing recruitment.
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