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Walleye Telemetry

Project Background & Significance 

Our lab has been involved in a study aimed at generating new knowledge about the behavioural ecology of walleye and informing management of the walleye fishery in Lake Erie. The study has been one of the flagship projects for the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System (GLATOS) since its inception. For this project, over 900 adult walleye from a number of spawning areas in and around the lake’s western basin have been surgically implanted with acoustic transmitters. Tagging of fish in this way began in spring of 2011 and has continued to happen nearly every spring since. After release, the broad-scale movements of those fish throughout Lake Erie have been tracked by underwater acoustic receiver stations that listen for the fish-specific (coded) “pings” that are sent out by the transmitters in fish swimming past the receiver. The implanted tags have a battery life of >3 years, meaning that we can get a long-term look into the life of each fish – its habitat use, migration paths, movement timing, fidelity to spawning areas, and survival (among other things). The fish are also implanted with a data logger that records temperature every 4 h for a year, and equipped with an external marker tag (T-bar anchor tag). The external tag facilitates visual identification of the tagged fish which has resulted in a very successful tag return-reward system in the Lake Erie fishery; ~30% of the tagged fish have been recaptured and reported. For fish that are recaptured, we can download the data from their data logger, giving us detailed insight into the temperatures they’ve experienced. Our lab’s role in this project primarily involves analyzing data and publishing results, and came about through a collaboration with Yingming Zhao (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry), Chuck Krueger (Michigan State University, Great Lakes Fishery Commission), and Chris Vandergoot (United States Geological Survey). For more information on GLATOS and this project, go to


A sample of the data from this project is visualized below. The blue circles are the locations of acoustic telemetry receivers, the red dots that appear are confirmed detections of individual fish, and the diamonds with the fish ID numbers above them show the interpolated movement tracks of individual fish in between actual detections on receivers. This animation is a sample of data for five fish tagged in the Sandusky River.


Relevant Lab Members – Graham Raby (PDF)

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