Journal of Great Lakes Research
Stakeholders and fishery managers expressed concern that double-crested cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus predation may be a factor in the recent poor survival of yellow perch Perca flavescens in Saginaw Bay. We quantified cormorant diets from two nesting colonies in Saginaw Bay during April–September in 2013 and 2014, with special emphasis on impacts to yellow perch. Cormorants (n = 691) were collected when returning to colonies after foraging. Stomachs were removed and preserved in the field. Diet items were identified, enumerated, and measured (n = 23,373). Cormorant diets from Saginaw Bay indicate a heavy reliance on round goby and Notropis species as prey during the breeding season, consistent with other areas of the Great Lakes where round goby and cormorants coincide. Respectively, the three most common prey species observed by number (%) and biomass (%) pooled across years and sites were round goby Neogobius melanostomus (56.6%, 42.1%), emerald shiner Notropis antherinoides (25.2%, 12.5%), and yellow perch (8.0%, 14.1%). Diet composition was more variable at Spoils Island than at Little Charity Island. Overall cormorant consumption (estimated using cormorant consumption demand rates) of yellow perch was compared to walleye consumption. Cormorant consumption of age-1 yellow perch was 13–17% as much as mean walleye consumption of yellow perch in 2013 and 8–11% in 2014. The cumulative effects of walleye and spring cormorant predation likely represent a recruitment bottleneck for yellow perch in Saginaw Bay. Future studies determining age-specific abundance of yellow perch would facilitate better determination of cormorant predation significance.