Millions of minnows
By Kimberly Powell
Grand Bend Lakeshore Advance
Published November 22, 2006
Emerald shiners, not seen in years, spotted in the Ausable
River in Grand Bend show an indication of good water quality.
"It is a clear indication that things are changing,"
says David Reid, Lake Management Supervisor, Lake Huron.
Local residents noticed the minnows earlier this month
and contacted the Lakeshore Advance. Staff from Ausable
Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA) and the Ministry
of the Environment (MOE) were surprised at the mass amount
of the fish.
Kari Killins , ABCA Aquatic Biologist said she is not
sure the minnows can be linked directly to good water
“They move into smaller rivers in the fall for feeding
and then back out to the lake for over wintering. Also
in the spring you may see them near the surface in the
lake feeding at dusk,”she explained.
Killans said they are a very common type of lake/open
“They don't get much bigger than 10 cm and are an important
forage fish for predators and bait fish for fishermen,”she
their abundance/population numbers vary greatly from year
to year according to studies and literature.
According to Reid's Aquatic Ecosystem Change dment, the
most significant changes to the fish community in recent
years have been the invasion of rainbow smelt in the 1920's
and the alewife and sea lamprey in the 1930's. In the
1950's, there were not many desirable fish due to sea
lamprey predation and overfishing of lake trout. With
no predators to control the alewife and smelt the population
exploded in the 1960's and die-offs of the alewife littered
With sea lamprey control allowing the survival of stocked
Pacific salmon, lake trout and other predators, a turnaround
came about. Restocking controlled smelt and alewife populations
and prevented alewife die-offs and resulted in exceptionally
"In the 1970's, 1980's and mostly through the 1990's,
things went well," says Reid. In 2003, there was
a complete die-off of alewife and there have been very
low numbers since. "We are seeing lake trout, walleye
and yellow trout not seen in years," says Reid.
The sighting of emerald shiners have only been heard of
in the past year or two. "It may be a result in decline
of alewife." "Historically there were big runs
of shiners but it's pretty surprising to see them again."