More problems on Lake Michigan

February 09, 2008 at 04:29 PM

There’s some possibly concerning news to ponder for Lake Michigan anglers.

Dan Egan of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the federal government’s annual survey of prey fish—little fish that feed bigger fish—in Lake Michigan shows the numbers of those alewives, chubs and smelt have dropped by half in the past year.

Writes Egan:

“Meanwhile—and perhaps not coincidentally—the volume of invasive mussels has ballooned to levels that biologists never would have predicted even five years ago. Those mussels make their living on the plankton upon which the lake’s fish species directly or indirectly depend.

The situation has scientists flummoxed and anglers fretting about the future of a fishery that helps sustain a multibillion-dollar Great Lakes fishing industry.

‘We may not be able to dodge this bullet,’ said Dan Thomas of the Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council.

Click here to read the rest of Egan’s story, which is not good news for those anglers who enjoy spending time on Lake Michigan.

A specific problem is the quagga mussel (pictured at right), first found in 1997 but suddenly taking over the lake—even taking over zebra mussels. What’s more, quagga mussels do well in deep water, which means they are actually better suited to Lake Michigan than are zebra mussels.Illinois Outdoors

“It’s not a zebra mussel story anymore,” Tom Nalepa, a biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, told the Journal-Sentinel. “It’s a quagga story.”

Others feel there may be other factors explaining the drop in prey fish. No matter how you explain it, the numbers are staggering. In 1989 the estimated biomass was 450,000 tons of prey fish. Today’s count is 30,000 tons.