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IntroductionThe Atlas

Introduction to the Goodyear Spawning Atlas

(Hover over words in red font for definition)

The Goodyear Spawning Atlasintends to show users known historic spawning locations of several species and to allow them to investigate these locations in the context of recent stocking numbers and catch rates of the same species. The focus is on spatial distributions of salmonines, the top guild of predatory fish in the Great Lakes. Salmonines include brown trout, lake trout, rainbow trout (steelhead), chinook salmon, and coho salmon. In addition, known spawning locations were included for alewife (an abundant salmonid forage species), sea lamprey (a nuisance species that is responsible for the decline of several top-guild fish [e.g., lake trout, yellow perch]), and lake sturgeon (an Endangered Species).

Using the atlas, users can query qualities of spawning habitat and investigate whether fish are caught where they are stocked. Examples of specific questions that can be addressed are:

Where are Great Lakes salmonines, alewife, sea lamprey, and lake sturgeon historically known to spawn?

What is the predominant subaqueous geomorphology at spawning locations of respective species?

Do angler catch rates reflect where respective species are stocked?

Do stocking numbers of respective species vary spatially over the Great Lakes?


Background on the 5 salmonines in the Great Lakes (courtesy of Life of the Lakes: A Guide to the Great Lakes Fishery by Michigan Sea Grant (

Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush)

Description: Often about 31 in and 10 lbs, but can grow much larger; scattered light spots on dark body; forked tail.

Adult Diet: Forage fishes such as chubs (ciscoes), lake herring, sticklebacks, alewife, smelt, sculpins, and macroinvertebrates.

Habitat/Behavior: Mainly benthic, but may be found at various depths (pelagic and littoral); spawn on rocky reefs during November and December. A variety or strain called siscowet (or "fat trout") is found in deepwater areas of Lake Superior, and another variety or strain called "humpers" have a different, humped body shape.

Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Description: Usually 20-30 in and 6-10 lbs; light body with dark spots, side has pinkish band.

Adult Diet: Invertebrates, plankton, forage fishes.

Habitat/Behavior: Pelagic (open-water); spawn in rivers, streams (potamodromous); enter rivers in late October through early May; spawn from late December through the spring (mostly in the spring); do not die after spawning. Not native to the region--introduced into the Great Lakes from the Pacific Northwest.

Brown Trout (Salmo trutta)

Description: Usually 20-22 in long, but can grow much larger; 4-5 lbs; dark crosses or checks on silvery body, tail with occasional dark spots, 10-12 anal rays.

Adult Diet: Smelt, alewife, other forage fishes.

Habitat/Behavior: Pelagic (open-water) but also found in benthic and shallow inshore areas; potamodromous; spawn in late fall or early winter when 2-3 years old; do not die after spawning; not native--introduced into Great Lakes region.

Pacific Salmon


Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)--Adults about 36 in, 18 lbs; black mouth and inner gums, anal fin with 15-17 rays, black spots all over tail.

Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)--Can reach about 27 in, 6.5 lbs; white or gray gums, anal fin with 13-15 rays, black spots on only upper half of tail.

Adult Diet: Alewife, smelt, other forage fishes.

Habitat/Behavior: Pelagic (open water), moving throughout the Great Lakes; spawn in rivers, streams (potamodromous); spawn in fall when 3-5 years old; adults die after spawning. Significant natural reproduction occurs, but population numbers are sustained through hatchery reared and stocked fish; 6-month-old chinook and 18-month-old coho migrate from rivers to Great Lakes. Not native to the region--introduced into the Great Lakes from the Pacific Northwest.


Atlas of the Spawning and Nursery Areas of Great Lakes Fishes: In 1982, Goodyear et al. produced an atlas of known fish spawning locations as noted in historical sources. Original data sources include computerized information services, federal and state agencies, academic institutions, electric utility companies, consulting firms, fishermen, and other institutions and organizations. More recently, Patricia Chow-Fraser, Ph.D., of McMaster University, digitized the historical records, enabling mapping of the narrative locations in a GIS. Digitized records for selected species were used in this project.

McMaster University also offers WIRE Net. The Wetland Inventory for Research and Education Network is a resource for research results concerning fish habitat and coastal wetlands in the Great Lakes.

For more information, see the publication: Goodyear, C.S., T.A. Edsall, D.M. Ormsby Dempsey, G.D. Moss, and P.E. Polanski. 1982. Atlas of the spawning and nursery areas of Great Lakes fishes. Volumes I-VIII. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC FWS/OBS-82/52.

Recreational Fishery (i.e., Charter Boat) Catch Data: The charter boat fishery database consists of average summer (May-August) harvest numbers as reported by boat captains to the respective Great Lakes States Departments of Natural Resources (DNRs) in 2001. Data included the number of anglers, trip duration, and catch numbers by species. Location was recorded in terms of 10-by-10-minute (one minute = 1/60th of a degree; ~ 13 x 19 km at these latitudes) grid cell numbers, thus 10-minute grid cells served as the spatial unit of data representation. Catch Per Unit Effort (CPUE) was calculated as the ratio of the number of fish of a particular species caught to the fishing effort (i.e., the number of anglers times the trip hours).

Stocking Data: Below is an excerpt from the Great Lakes Fish Stocking Database (GLFSD) web site ( Please see the web site for more information.

"The Great Lakes Fish Stocking Database (GLFSD) is a continuation of a project initiated by the Great Lake Fishery Commission (GLFC) to provide fishery managers, scientists, and other interested parties with access to a centralized, comprehensive database of all fish stocked into the Great Lakes from artificial propagation. In 1991, The GLFC created the Fish Stocking Database Management System (FSDMS) to meet this end." ... "Based upon a 1997 request from the Council of Lake Committees of the GLFC, the Green Bay Fishery Resources Office (Green Bay FRO) of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), assumed the responsibility of enhancing and maintaining the stocking database by developing the GLFSD, which is a single database that houses stocking information for all species."



This project was completed as a collaborative effort between the Great Lakes GIS Project ( and the USGS Great Lakes Science Center (



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