Lake Michigan’s Alewife Population Reaching Record Lows

Lake Michigan’s alewives are on the decline, with potential implications for the salmon fishery.

The alewife and salmon populations in Lake Michigan are on the brink of serious changes. Researchers have observed record low levels of alewives this year. Michael Jones is the co-director of Michigan State University’s Quantitative Fisheries Center. He says a similar experience occurred in Lake Huron around 2003, resulting in the decline of the species’ main predator: Chinook salmon.

“Alewife almost completely disappeared from Lake Huron—almost certainly because of this balance, this predator-prey imbalance. Too many predators not enough prey. And in Lake Huron the fishery is now very different. So there’s lots of walleye fishing, there’s lake trout fishing. The anglers are targeting other species.”

-Michael Jones

Jones says he’s unsure of the ecological impact of the species’ loss in Lake Huron. He says he cannot predict what might happen in Lake Michigan, but the imbalance between salmon and its prey–the alewives–is growing quite large.