Minutes of the
Lake Superior Technical Committee Meeting
Ojibwa Motel
Baraga, MI
August 6-8, 1996

Part I

List of Attendees: Mark Ebener-COTFMA, Jim Peck-MiDNR, Henry Quinlan USFWS-FRO, Gary Klar-USFWS, Mike Gallinat-RCFD, Bill Mattes-GLIFWC, Ken Gebhardt-BMIC, Dale Bast-USFWS, Bill Horns-WDNR, Stephen Schram-WDNR, Donald Schreiner-MnDNR, Chuck Bronte-NBS, John Johnson-Grand Portage, Robert Young-DFO, Mike Donofrio-KBIC, Gavin Christie-GLFC, Wayne MacCallum-OMNR, Ann McCammon-Soltis-GLIFWC

Agenda Item 1 - Sea lamprey Management

a. Funding for Great Lakes Fishery Commission - Increasing confusion is probably the best way to describe future funding for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. The Canadian Dept. of Fisheries & Oceans was going to reduce, then completely eliminate, funding for sea lamprey control in Canada, but DFO is now going to come through with full funding. The situation on the U. S. side is different. The House of Representatives put forth legislation that took a portion of GLFC funding and gave it to NOAA, and NOAA in turn would pass the monies directly to the USFWS. The remaining portion of GLFC monies will continue to come from the State Dept. The U. S. Senate has proposed legislation to cut the budget by $1.5 million dollars and maintain the split of money for sea lamprey control between NOAA and the GLFC.

The important issue to the LSTC is what these budget problems mean to sea lamprey control on Lake Superior. That is, how many dead lake trout will there be as a result of the $1.5 million reduction in GLFC funding. Sea lamprey control is currently evaluating that impact. By 1997, the control program may have to reduce control basin-wide. However, only 13% of the total sea lamprey control effort on the U. S. side will be required for Lake Superior in 1997, meaning that the reduced funding will have little effect on the sea lamprey control program on Lake Superior in 1997. The effect of reduced monies for sea lamprey control will occur in later years.

Action Item - At the winter 1997 meeting of the LSTC, sea lamprey control agents will outline the potential effects on transformer production to Lake Superior that may result from a reduction in funding.

b. SMRT membership - John Heinrich has asked the LSTC chairperson to be a member of the SMRT task force. Mike Hansen was the LSTC representative on the task force. Ebener asked for a volunteer from the LSTC to serve on SMRT. Chuck Bronte indicated a willingness to served on SMRT, but needs some time before making a decision. If Chuck can't serve on SMRT then Bill Mattes will volunteer to do so.

c. Sterile-Male Release Technique during 1996 - Rob Young provide the LSTC with an update of the sterile-male sea lamprey releases made during 1996. A total of 12,730 sterilized male sea lampreys were released into 19 U. S. and 9 Canadian tributaries to Lake Superior in 1996. The ratio of sterile to resident male lamprey within individual tributaries ranged from 0.4 to 3.0. These lampreys came from the Manistique, Cheboygan, Thessalon, and Echo Rivers. There are nine experimental streams for evaluation of the sterile-male release program on Lake Superior. In these streams, the control agents created populations of larval lamprey above barriers to evaluate larval production and the sterile-male release technique.

A workshop was held in March 1996 to evaluate stock-recruitment relationships and compensatory mechanisms in sea lampreys. Finding from the workshop were that the Ricker stock-recruitment model fit the sea lamprey data the best, that first the year-class after treatment dominates stream biomass, and that density-dependent effects occur after one year-class. The Ricker stock-recruitment curves had very steep slopes indicating that very few sea lampreys could provide all the reproduction necessary for a stream. It appears that five or more sea lampreys per square meter of substrate could be the threshold level for inducing density-dependent effects. These workshop finding do not bode well for traditional control treatments like sterile-male, barriers, etc.

d. IMSL - Rob Young described the stream selection process the control agents currently use to rank Lake Superior tributaries for application TFM. Objectives of the stream selection process are to develop lamprey vs. cost curves by ranking streams, estimating transformer production, and to determine cost of treatment. Past sampling of larval densities in streams has involved qualitative (presence/absence), mark-recapture, and depletion methods, but the control agents used mostly depletion estimates. Analysis of the depletion estimates revealed that 80-90% of the variation in the estimates was explained by the first pass. There was no relationship between density and area shocked among areas that ranged from 5-50 m2, and residuals were not independent of density. The control agents decided to conduct 12 plots in each region of a stream in order to estimate density of larvae. Other considerations for deciding upon a stream treatment included; larval length effect on capture rate, larval length effect on transformation rate, and regional differences in transformation rates. The size structure of larval lamprey in each stream is standardized among streams sampled at different times of the year, by growing lamprey in each stream to their size on October 31 using a von Bertalanffy growth curve. The control agents also account for efficiency of the electrofishing gear by accounting for size distribution of population, because large-sized larval lampreys are less vulnerable to the gear. Different transformation rate curves are applied to streams east and west of the Keweenaw Peninsula and to streams in the north and south areas of the lake. The number of larvae and transformers in each stream is estimated as the sum of the number per unit area in each habitat type multiplied times the amount of each habitat type. The cost per lamprey killed is estimated as the total number of transformers divided by the cost of treating the stream. Total cost of treating Lake Superior streams is about $1.1 million dollars.

e. St. Marys River update - The sea lamprey control programs will be conducting a dye study to determine potential effectiveness of a TFM treatment on the St. Marys River on August 10-12, 1996. The LSTC is interested in the effect that control of sea lampreys on the St. Marys River will have on control of lampreys in Lake Superior. Ten to fifteen years ago the control agents estimated from radio-telemetry that some number of spawners from the St. Marys River move into Lake Superior. It is possible that the control agents maybe able to apply control techniques learned on the St. Marys River to Lake Superior tributaries. It is estimated that the cost to chemically control sea lampreys on the St. Marys River may be as high as $9 million dollars every five years.

Agenda Item 2- Subcommittee Reports

LSTC members were to provide comments on the brook trout, lake sturgeon, and walleye subcommittee status reports to Lee Newman, Nancy Auer, and Mike Hoff, respectively, by March 1, 1996. Copies of the lake sturgeon report were not distributed to LSTC members until April 1996. A final brook trout status report in nearly ready, awaiting only additional comments from LSTC members. LSTC members should provide their written comments on the subcommittee status reports to the subcommittee chairpersons as soon as possible. Mark Ebener will make this known to the subcommittee chairpersons.

Concerned was expressed by LSTC members that the status reports are already being published. The LSTC generally agreed that these status reports were not to be published outside of using them for the next State of Lake Superior report.

The LSTC discussed problems being created by the brook trout subcommittee. Six Non-technical people attended the brook trout subcommittee meeting in Grand Portage which caused many of the technical agency people to withdraw from the discussions. It appears to the LSTC that the brook trout subcommittee is branching out and creating unrealistic expectations for the anglers. Ebener will talk to Tom Busiahn and Lee Newman about problems the LSTC has with the brook trout subcommittee chairperson. Ebener will also remind each subcommittee chairperson about; (1) the need to keep the meetings restricted to technical participants, (2) the need to stick to the charges assigned by the LSTC, and (3) that once the charges are completed each subcommittee will be dissolved. Lastly, goals and objectives developed by the subcommittees, that maybe different from the current FCO's, should first be delivered to the technical committee.

Agenda Item 3 - Fish Community Objectives

LSC chair Bill Horns requested that the LSTC discuss the problems of linking quantified environmental objectives to stated fish community goals. The LSC wants the LSTC to discuss the technical problems associated with quantitative analysis of habitat, and discuss if quantitative habitat goals can be developed that allow achievement of FCO's. For example, how much spawning habitat will be necessary to achieve the lake trout rehabilitation goal, or, how much food is necessary to produce a sustainable four million pound harvest of lean lake trout?

Bill Horns outlined the potential course of action the LSC may be taking to redraft Fish FCO's for Lake Superior; timetable, process, and drafting team. SGLFMP calls for creation of fish habitat goals after completion of FCO's. Bill envisions that the LSC and LSTC need to provide the Binational Program with fishery objectives related to critical habitat and habitat needs of important species. Habitat includes not just the physical habitat, but also contaminants. Within the Great Lakes basin there are currently two ongoing activities aimed at relating habitat to aquatic objectives. First, BOTE is sponsoring research to understand relationships between habitat and FCO's. Secondly, the EPA is also sponsoring a workshop called SOLEC II to look at nearshore habitat issues in the Great Lakes.

The Habitat Advisory Board (HAB) has made a list of the necessary components of FCO's that can be used to develop quantitative habitat objectives for each Great Lakes. The components were taken from a HAB workshop on environmental objectives that took place in November 1993. Basically, FCO's should specify:

  1. Relative abundance (long-term) of all species
  2. Seasonal distribution
  3. Biomass
  4. Productivity
  5. Harvest strategies
  6. Desired genetic diversity

Other Needs identified in order to achieve quantitative habitat goals include:

  1. habitat definition/quantification
  2. What is a sensitive species
  3. Key effects---> toxic/water quality, exotics, physical habitat
  4. What are encroachments that are critical to habitat

Generally, the LSTC feels that habitat is an issue only in the tributaries, harbors, and embayments, not the open and nearshore waters of the Lake. Most of the nearshore and open-water habitat is generally unchanged from historic times, whereas the vast majority of the tributary, harbors, and embayments have bore the brunt of habitat destruction around Lake Superior. Species like lake trout, herring, and whitefish probably have sufficient amounts of habitat to sustain themselves and achieve our present FCO's. On the other hand, because of the destruction of habitat in tributaries and embayments, we will not be able to estimate, nor sustain, the levels of lake trout, whitefish, and herring abundance that existed in Lake Superior before arrival of Europeans to North America. Rehabilitation of tributary and embayment habitat is essential to indigenous species like lake sturgeon, coaster brook trout, and walleye. The LSTC recognizes the need to identify the specific habitats important to these three species. The subcommittee status reports and rehabilitation plans should assist in identifying these critical habitats within the Lake Superior basin.

After some stimulating discussions, the LSTC generally reached consensus on the following points necessary to reach quantitative fishery habitat objectives.

  1. While it appears that toxic contaminants are not limiting reproduction of Lake Superior fishes such as lake trout, whitefish, and lake herring, the LSTC does not know if reproduction could be better if toxic contaminants we re at lower levels, or eliminated completely.
  2. The LSTC can not at this time, describe the amount of square meters of habitat necessary to sustain the important fishes (lake trout, whitefish, walleye, herring, sturgeon, brook trout, etc.) and reach FCO. What may be possible is to grossly name the streams that historically contained lake sturgeon and may be important for rehabilitation of this species. The Sea Lamprey Control program has quantified the amount of different substrate types in streams that contain larval sea lampreys, and these habitat maps may be useful in future LSTC endeavors at quantifying habitat.
  3. The open water and nearshore habitat of Lake Superior is probably in sufficient quality to reach any specific FCO, but the tributaries, harbors, and embayments do not have the amount of habitat necessary to achieve FCO's for species like sturgeon, coaster brook trout, walleye, etc.

Agenda Item 4 - Common Data Bases

a. Lake herring assessment data base - The LSTC decided that the lake herring data base should contain information collected during monitoring of commercial harvests as well as information collected during agency surveys. In this format, the data base will also be able to contain data from Ontario. The data base will be specific to the herring/chub complex in Lake Superior and will not contain information on whitefish and round whitefish. The data base proposed by Mike Hoff in his July 12, 1996 memo should be modified as follows:

Operation Table

 Add field titled COLLMETHD (assessment or commercial),

 field NETLENTH should be changed to EFFORT (feet of net, hours trawling, lifts, etc.),

 Add field titled GEAR (gill net, trawl, pound net, etc.)

Gear Table (to be created)

 Add field titled TWINE (monofilament, nylon, or poly webbing),

 Add field titled SET (bottom set or floating),

 Add field titled MESHESDEEP to describe the number of meshes deep (19, 36, 50......),

 Add field titled TWINESIZE to describe diameter of webbing (210/2, #69, #104, etc.),

Fish Table (formerly Length Table)

 Add field titled WGHTTYPE to describe weight of fish (round, dressed, backed).

b. Predator data base - The LSTC sees the need for a data base that contains biological information (length, weight, age, sex, maturity, etc) for predators in Lake Superior. The LSTC believes that Mike Hansen has the biological information on individual lake trout from the spring assessment surveys in each state. Mark Ebener will talk to Hansen about the lake trout information. Each state has creel survey data that will be useful for non-lake trout predators The data base should include siscowets. Chuck Bronte volunteered to begin the process of developing that data base.

Action Item - LSTC members and participants should send biological information on non-lake trout predators from creel surveys and siscowet surveys to Chuck Bronte. The data should be sent in electronic format, send no raw data. For each species please indicate the number of years completed, data on capture date, and months you think the fish hatched. For the winter 1997 meeting of the LSTC, Chuck will present some initial findings that illustrate the effect on estimates of growth that result from accounting for collection date.

c. Stocking data base - The Ashland Fishery Resource Office will serve as the keeper of the Lake Superior stocking data base. The FRO office should not worry about making summaries of the data. Rather, FRO should make sure each agency has access to all the information contined in the data base, and that they obtain the most recent stocking summaries available from each agency.

d. Harvest data base - The LSTC feels there was a need for a data base that contains all the commercial harvest data from Lake Superior. The NBS laboratory in Ann Arbor, MI, currently has that information for the states of MN, WI, MI, and the COTFMA. Commercial harvests made by the Red Cliff, Bad River, and Keweenaw Bay bands, and the province of Ontario are not included in the NBS data base.

Action Item - Bill Mattes will take the lead in coordinating and updating the commercial harvest data base with Scott Nelson of the NBS laboratory. Scott's phone number is 313-994-3331 ext. 243

e. GLFC Web Site - The GLFC now has their own web site and would like to provide a forum where technical committees can access common data files. The GLFC would like to provide the LSTC with a site where committee members have access to information. The LSTC felt that a site on the GLFC web where members could access agendas, meeting minutes, documents such as the state of the lake reports, and the stocking and harvest data bases would be useful. The LSTC did not see the need to restrict the information solely to LSTC members.

Agenda Item 5 - Predator Diets

a. Diet standardization - Prior to the LSTC meeting, Mark Ebener distributed a copy of the Lake Michigan diet protocol developed by the LMTC. Ebener was interested in having the LSTC review the protocol and consider adapting parts of the protocol to a standard for Lake Sueprior. In principle, the LSTC thinks the protocol is good and should be applied to Lake Superior, but its priority to the LSTC was questioned. It was suggested that a diet protocol for Lake Superior focus on collection and analysis of the important predators; leans, siscowets, and burbot since these fish appear to be much more abundant than chinooks, coho, steelhead, browns trout, and pink salmon. The LSTC also recognizes the need to collect seasonal diet information during spring, summer, and fall for use in bioenergetics modeling. Stephen Schram and Chuck Bronte volunteerd to edit the existing LMTC diet protocol document to fit the needs of the LSTC on Lake Superior.

Action Item - Mark Ebener will ask Robb Elliot, lead author of the Lake Michigan Diet Protocol document, to provide the LSTC with a disk copy of the protocol so Stephen Schram and Chuck Bronte can edit the protocol to suit Lake Superior.

Agenda Item 6 - Siscowet Assessment

Mark Ebener distributed copies of a summary describing catches of fish made during the LSTC coordinated survey of lean and siscowets trout populations in U. S. waters of Lake Superior during June 1996. Ebener summarized catches of lean trout, siscowets, burbot, chubs, and lake herring made by the MnDNR, RCFD, GLIFWC, MiDNR, and COTFMA with nylon graded mesh gill nets in units MN-1, MI-2, MI-4, MI-5, and MI-7 of Lake Superior. The agencies caught a total of 132 lean trout, 1,682 siscowets, 156 burbot, and 551 herring/chubs. Average CPUE across all units was 1 lean trout, 15 siscowets, 1 burbot, and 5 herring/chubs. When the data from all units was combined, lean trout were most abundant in 10-20 fathoms, while siscowets were most abundant in waters >80 fathoms deep. Abundance of siscowets increased with increasing depth, except in the 50 fathom depth range. Burbot were equally abundant at all depths throughout the study sites. The lakewide ratio of siscowets to lean trout was 14:1, and siscowets were more abundant than leans in all waters >20 fathoms deep.

Jim Peck reported that sea lamprey wounding averaged 12 marks/100 siscowets 17 inches long in MI-5 during the June assessment. Total sea lamprey marking (wounds and scars) averaged 127 marks/100 siscowets 29 inches long in MI-5. Sea lamprey wounding of lean trout 17 inches long averaged 6 marks/100 fish in MI-5 during the same assessment. Mark Ebener reported that sea lamprey wounding averaged 5 marks/100 siscowets 17 inches long in MI-7 during the survey. Sea lamprey marking of siscowets 25 inches long averaged 12 marks/100 fish in MI-7. Chuck Bronte agreed to summarize his sea lamprey wounding of siscowets collected in 1992-93.

The LSTC agreed to conduct the graded mesh gill net survey again in 1997. The committee felt the sampling should be conducted during summer and fall, in addition to the June, in order to better describe seasonal patterns in the distribution and diet of siscowets. Each agency is tentatively comitted to conducting the survey again in 1997 with the following spatial and temporal distribution of effort:

   Agency              Unit               Season
   RCFD & GLIFWC     MI-2 & MI-3        Spring & summer?
   WDNR              WI-1 & WI-2,       Spring & summer?
   NBS               MN-3 & MI-1        Summer & fall
   COTFMA            MI-7               August
   MiDNR             MI-5               September
   MnDNR & GP?      MN-3?          Spring & summer?

The LSTC agreed concentrate sampling in May/June and August/September. The number of depth strata will be reduced by making them cover 20 fa intervals instead of 10 fa intervals, and each agency will try to fish deeper than 100 fa. No assessment fishing should be done in the 0 fa (0-59 ft.) depth interval. Graded mesh gill nets of 2 to 6 inch mesh by 1/2 inch increments should be used to catch fish. Because a large number of otoliths have already been collected as part of the study, and will continue to be collected, the LSTC wants to develop an age-length key for siscowets in each unit. Chuck Bronte agreed to process the otoliths collected by Mike Gallinat's survey of MI-2 in 1996.

Mark Ebener volunteered to process lean trout, siscowet, and burbot stomachs collected as part of the coordinated siscowet study. Identification of prey items doesn't need to go beyond terrestrial insects, Mysis, Diporeia, smelt, sculpins, burbot, sticklebacks, herring, or unknown coregoinid.

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