Contemporary conditions in Lake Michigan where cisco (Coregonus artedi) populations are expanding are vastly different from those encountered by the historic fish community. Invasive species introductions have substantially altered the Lake Michigan ecosystem in the last half century. Successful management efforts for cisco in Lake Michigan hinge on our ability to understand their contemporary ecology, especially diet. We collected 725 cisco stomachs opportunistically from commercial fisheries (2%) and in agency surveys (98%) over six years (2014–2019). The majority (70%) of stomachs were from East Grand Traverse Bay and 96% of these were collected at Elk Rapids. Additional samples were collected from Charlevoix (8%), Little Traverse Bay (11%), other sites in northern Lake Michigan (4%), Central Lake Michigan (6%), and Green Bay (1%). Our results indicated a high degree of piscivory, in contrast to historical and contemporary accounts of planktivory for cisco in the other Laurentian Great Lakes. The top three prey items by mass were not native to the Great Lakes and these accounted for 87% of all observed prey mass consumed: round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) (58%), Bythotrephes longimanus (15%), and alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) (14%). Round goby dominated the prey in the spring and summer, while B. longimanus and alewife occurred more in summer and fall diets. The contemporary population of cisco in Lake Michigan has been able to uniquely capitalize on abundant invasive prey resources, which may be less limiting and more energy-rich than a more typical planktivorous cisco diet.
- Great Lakes
- Round goby