The history and future of Lake Champlain's fishes and fisheries.
In the last two centuries, physical, chemical, and biological alterations of Lake Champlain have resulted in the loss of two species, addition of 15 fish species, and listing of 16 species as endangered, threatened or of special concern. The lake currently supports 72 native fish species; lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) and Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) were extirpated by 1900, American eel (Anguilla rostrata) and lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) populations are extremely low, and walleye (Sander vitreum) are declining. Dams on several rivers, and ten causeways constructed in the mid 1800s to early 1900s, cut off access to critical spawning areas and may have limited fish movements. Siltation and sediment loading from agricultural activity and urban growth have degraded substrates and led to noxious algal blooms in some bays. A commercial fishery targeting spawning grounds of lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis), lake trout, and walleye probably reduced numbers of these species prior to its closure in 1912. Non-native species introductions have had ecosystem-wide impacts. Sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) populations were very high prior to successful control, possibly as a consequence of ecological imbalance and habitat changes. A paucity of historic survey data or accurate species accounts limits our understanding of the causes of current fish population trends and status; in particular, the effects of habitat fragmentation within the lake and between the lake and its watershed are poorly understood. Holistic, ecosystem management, including pollution reduction and examination of habitat impacts, is necessary to restore the general structure of native biological assemblages.