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Great Lakes Article:

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 quality.

“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 water minnow.
“They don't get much bigger than 10 cm and are an important forage fish for predators and bait fish for fishermen,”she said adding
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 the beaches.

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 good fishing.

"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."



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