Developing habitat associations for fishes in Lake Winnipeg by linking large scale bathymetric and substrate data with fish telemetry detections
Journal of Great Lakes research
Understanding relationships between freshwater fishes and habitat is critical for effective fisheries and habitat management. Habitat suitability indices (HSI) are commonly used to describe fish-habitat associations in rivers and other freshwater ecosystems. When applied to large lakes however, standard sampling procedures are inadequate because of larger sampling areas and an increased risk of fish collection bias through one-time observations. Here, we use lake bathymetry, substrate, and
... substrate, and multiple fish telemetry detections collected from a systematically deployed receiver grid to develop HSI for four fish species (lake sturgeon, freshwater drum, common carp, and walleye) in Lake Winnipeg. Seasonal variations in habitat use based on water depth and substrate were observed in three of four species. Lake sturgeon remained in shallow locations with predominantly gravel substrate near the mouth of the Winnipeg River regardless of season. Freshwater drum persisted over fine substrate in both summer and winter but had a broader depth range in the summer compared to winter. Common carp shifted from mid-range depths and silt substrate in the summer to shallow depths and gravel substrate in the winter. Walleye showed an unchanging association to fine substrate but expanded from primarily mid-range depths in the summer to include shallower depths in the winter. These findings show how multiple telemetry detections per fish can be combined with hydroacoustic data to provide informative habitat associations for fishes in a large lacustrine ecosystem.