Where are the Alwives?

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Thorny
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Where are the Alwives?

Postby Thorny » Tue Nov 15, 2011 5:10 am

Hi Guys
Just provoking some discussion about some of he changes we are seeing this fall in the lake. I have not seen the huge piles of bait on he screen that we have seen in he past couple of years. The few fish I have cleaned recently have had smelt in their bellies. This years small Salmon are running 14 to 17 as opposed to the 17 to 20 we have seen in recent years. They are also skinnier. The past 2 years Salmon ave been gorging on Alwives and looked like they were on steroids. This year they look more like the norm and we are seeing smelt in their bellies. We are also seeing more action higher in the water column. The past couple years hot action was 30 to 70. This year 40 up seems to be more active again. I am speculating that the Alwives did not fair very well with all the high muddy water this year. However the smelt seemed to do ok. I am not complaining just analyzing. Anyone seeing anything different?
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raz
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Re: Where are the Alwives?

Postby raz » Tue Nov 15, 2011 5:43 am

While fishing the shoot-out I was thinking about the size of this years stocked fish vs. the size of them last year. There's quite a noticeable difference. I didn't stop to think of the absence of Alewife's...good question, Where are the Alewife's? I'm not sure they didn't fare well. If they didn't...wouldn't we have heard news of them washing ashore by the schools? I'll go out on a limb and say they're around...but where?
It has definitely been an interesting year.
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Re: Where are the Alwives?

Postby Reel Delight (Walt) » Tue Nov 15, 2011 7:29 am

I don't think I can really say that I was seeing the same population of Alwives on the south end of the lake that I saw during the 2010 season this past year. And, if you think back to the spring of 2011, we did have an awful fish kill of Alewives. I remember seeing and smelling dead Alewives covering the shoreline all around the south section of the lake and my understanding was that folks had the same thing up north. I could hardly see the concrete ramp at Port Henry as it was covered with dead Alewives.

Then we had our spring flooding.... so who knows? I was on the lake one day before the flood and my buddy and I were commenting on the dead Alewives floating around us as we trolled and watching Alewives surfacing and dying.

I think Thorny has a good point there.
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champlain fisher
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Re: Where are the Alwives?

Postby champlain fisher » Tue Nov 15, 2011 8:22 am

Seen several clouds of them when I was out 2 sundays ago but not like the past 2 falls. There were still good amounts of them scattered about but way less in size when they did show on the screen.
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Eric L
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Re: Where are the Alwives?

Postby Eric L » Tue Nov 15, 2011 1:10 pm

According to James Ehlers at LCI, there was a huge die off of them this past winter. Perhaps recovering from that still?
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Re: Where are the Alwives?

Postby vtbass » Tue Nov 15, 2011 1:40 pm

Check out how salmon and alewives interact in the Great Lakes. Lake Michigan in particular, is a good example, of what happens to predator fish when alewife populations crash. Very skinny salmon. That's the danger of the "boom and bust" cycles of alewife. They just can't maintain and support consistent fisheries.
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Re: Where are the Alwives?

Postby raz » Wed Nov 16, 2011 6:02 am

Boom and Bust...like vtbass said.
Remember when it was first announced that Champlain had alewives and they were here to stay? Boom and bust was discussed and is expected. Maybe this is the first bust?

Like Walt and Eric mentioned...we had a huge die-off this year. The southern end of the Inland Sea was loaded with them in the flood waters.

Boom...they'll be back!

Eric...welcome!
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Gerry
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Re: Where are the Alwives?

Postby vtbass » Wed Nov 16, 2011 12:37 pm

Raz wrote:Boom and Bust...like vtbass said.

Yep - it's typical of fisheries with alewife as the dominant forage. It's feast or famine. The predators get nice and fat in the "good" years, then their numbers drop and the few remaining get real skinny during the years following a big alewife crash. We should get used to that maybe being the future on Champlain. The one exception is that there still seems to be smelt out there. In Lake Michigan, alternate food sources are scarce, so there really isn't anything for salmon to eat when the alewives crash.
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Re: Where are the Alwives?

Postby Wallyandre (Andre) » Wed Nov 16, 2011 1:17 pm

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Eric L
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Re: Where are the Alwives?

Postby Eric L » Wed Nov 16, 2011 1:42 pm

Raz wrote:
Eric...welcome!


Happy to be here, Gerry.
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Re: Where are the Alwives?

Postby pierre » Wed Nov 16, 2011 3:35 pm

Monday, Bern and I went fishing and managed a few nice fish and as we were fishing I noticed in the back of the boat there wasa small fish that probably one of the fish that we had caught vomited a small bait fish and it looked like a small alwives. I picked up the bait fish to look at it closer and took a spone that looked like it in color and then fished with that spoon and got a few nice strikes but the day was near the end so I'll try it next time out soon........ to see what kind of result we will get. The bait fish really looked like a alwives but 1''3/4 long, when I got home and cleaned the fish it was late and I fogot to look into the fish's stomach to see if they had some more inside .

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Reel Delight (Walt)
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Re: Where are the Alwives?

Postby Reel Delight (Walt) » Wed Nov 16, 2011 7:17 pm

I don't think any of us will ever fully understand Mother Nature because she sure does have a way to keep a balance on things.
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Cas
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Re: Where are the Alwives?

Postby Cas » Thu Nov 17, 2011 8:30 am

Walt - I was thinking the exact same thing. Nature and evolution takes thousands (millions?) of years, we're making changes in a matter of years. Just looking at the rise and fall of the fishery due to lamprey treatment in a couple years time during the trial stages, then the trial ended, then it started up again in earnest, and the fishery grew. The fishery grew at a similar time that the alewives arrived, so the improved fishery was probably a combination of both. It's impossible for a fishery to reach equilibrium in such a short amount of time given the amount of changes to their environment recently.

Last year, the laker record was broken twice, I believe, lamprey are down signifacantly, the fish grew. The alewives crashed, as we knew they would, and more smelt are being seen in the bellies of the fish, and the fish are not filling themselves up like last year because the supply of alewives isn't there. While the bigger fish aren't appearing in our catches like they did last year, it certainly sounds to me that there are bigger fish in the rivers, and what's being seen in the fish ladders is improved, so I'm still optimistic that our fishery is very stable.

Throw in the high water in the spring and even into the fall, this season's mild fall so far, there's so many variables. Personally I think it's impossible to look at the health of a fishery in one year's time, even two. Looking at it as a whole over several years and seeing the trends is really the only way to grasp what is going on. But the trend has been positive now for some time, so for me the glass is still half full.
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Re: Where are the Alwives?

Postby Sea Hare » Thu Nov 17, 2011 8:46 am

Well, I am not a biologist, but during this past season I couldn't help but notice the huge increase in the numbers and size of the white perch, especially in the Inland Sea area. They were fat and feisty and stayed in the depth zones that the salmon were in. They even fought the salmon to get to the Crazy Ivan or Honeybee spoon first. Doubles and triples on white perch were not unusual. I kept a bunch of big whities for the table and when cleaning them, the stomach contents held tons of small minnows, and alewives were among them.
Could the perch be taking that heavy a toll on the alewives ? They are certainly competing with the Salmon for the same food source.
Any thoughts on this ?

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