Demography and substrate affinity of the round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) in Hamilton Harbour.
The invasive round goby, Neogobius melanostomus, consumes eggs and fry of other fishes, competes for resources with native fish species, and hence poses a threat to Great Lakes aquatic communities. We provide the first description of round goby demographic patterns in Hamilton Harbour, in the western tip of Lake Ontario, and the connected Cootes Paradise Marsh, a recently restored wetland. By monitoring round goby populations on a variety of distinct habitats for 7 years (2002-2008), we found that populations have declined at all sample locations and that average fish body size also has decreased. We also related abundance, body size, and reproductive patterns to seasonality, to substrate types (mud, sand, cobble and boulder) and to water quality in all locations. Round gobies were found on all substrates sampled including mud, although they were less abundant on mud than on other substrates, and to date have not extensively colonized Cootes Paradise Marsh. Our work confirms previous studies, which have suggested that habitats lacking hard structures will have fewer round gobies because they lack substrates on which round gobies can breed. However, our results also indicate that muddy and sandy substrates are not resistant to round goby invasion and will not prevent round goby colonization, a potential concern for Cootes Paradise Marsh an important spawning, nursery, and refuge habitat for warmwater native fishes and for other similar wetlands.