Patterns of age-0 yellow perch growth, diets, and mortality in Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron

Charles R. Roswell, Steven A. Pothoven, Tomas O. Höök

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Identifying mechanisms influencing early-life survival may elucidate recruitment variability of fish populations. Yellow perch (Perca flavescens), are economically and ecologically important in Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron, but have recently experienced low recruitment despite strong production of age-0 fish. Recent year classes have been characterized by slow first-year growth, as indexed by fall size of age-0 yellow perch; however, seasonal growth patterns and accompanying diet and survivorship patterns have not been documented for age-0 yellow perch in Saginaw Bay. To this end, we collected age-0 yellow perch weekly (larvae) and monthly (juveniles) throughout the first year of life during 2009 and 2010 to track changes in growth and diet composition. We also evaluated predation and over-winter energy-loss as potential mechanisms of size-selective mortality. Yellow perch growth, energy accumulation and size-specific condition decreased during late summer and fall. During larval and juvenile stages, predominant components of yellow perch diets transitioned from copepods to Daphnia and other zooplankton; however, we observed only weak ontogenetic shifts toward benthic prey. Smaller yellow perch a) were preferentially preyed upon by walleye (the bay's main piscivore) and b) displayed lower mass-specific energy content, potentially increasing overwinter starvation risk, suggesting that slow growth increases mortality risk. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that recruitment dynamics are influenced by an interplay of size-selective mortality and diet-induced reductions in growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-132
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - Jun 2 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Age-0
  • Diets
  • Growth
  • Saginaw Bay
  • Size-selective mortality
  • Yellow perch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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