Habitat associations of larval fish in a Lake superior coastal wetland

Danny K. Tanner, John C. Brazner, Valerie J Brady, Ronald R. Regal

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13 Scopus citations


Information on the habitat associations of larval fishes in Great Lakes coastal wetlands (GLCW) is necessary to assist fisheries managers in the protection and management of critical habitats. Coastal wetlands serve as spawning grounds, nurseries, and forage areas for many important Great Lakes fish species. To determine the distribution of larval fish in coastal wetlands with regard to location and vegetation characteristics, we used a larval tow-sled to sample four macrohabitat types (sand-spit, inner and outer marsh, and river) across sparse, moderate, and dense vegetation densities (microhabitat) in Allouez Bay wetland near Lake Superior's western end. We captured 4,806 larval fish representing 16 species between May and August 1996. Allouez Bay is typical of other GLCW in species number and composition. The three most abundant species were spottail shiner (59% of the total catch), yellow perch (20% of total catch), and white sucker (10% of total catch). Significantly more fish and fish species (repeated-measures ANOVA) (p < 0.05) were caught at the sand-spit relative to the outer or inner marsh macrohabitats. Nearly all of the cyprinids and centrarchids were caught at the sand-spit habitat primarily in dense vegetation, while the majority of white suckers and trout-perch were caught in the river in sparse or moderate vegetation. Our study provides evidence for species-specific macrohabitat and microhabitat associations of larval fish in coastal wetlands. We suggest these associations are largely determined by adult spawning requirements and life-history strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-359
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004


  • Great Lakes coastal wetland
  • Habitat
  • Lake Superior
  • Larval fish
  • St. Louis/Allouez Bay
  • Tow-sled

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