- Length: 9 inches
- Weight: 8 ounces
- Coloring: silvery with some
pink and purple iridescence,with a greenish tinge above lateral line and a silvery white
- Common Names: bloater chub, bloat,
chub, Hoy's cisco, cisco de fumage (French)
- Found in Lakes: Michigan, Huron,
Ontario and Superior
After several species of the larger
deepwater chubs in Lake Michigan succumbed to the combined pressures of fishing, sea
lamprey attack and alewife competition, the smallest variety -- the bloater -- fell heir
to the generic family name of "chub."
These small, soft-fleshed, oily fish will
probably never be sought as game fish. They dwell too far from shore and have mouths too
small for ordinary bait, since they feed mostly on zooplankton and other organisms near
the lake bottom. But as smoked fish they command a good price at the market.
During the 1970s, bloater population in Lake
Michigan dropped alarmingly, due apparently to alewife predation and competition. In 1976,
the states ringing Lake Michigan issued a two-and-a-half-year ban on chub fishing. This
ban and the decline in alewife numbers in the 1980s have allowed the lake's chub
population to rebound, and commercial fishermen are once more harvesting chubs. Scientists
also take satisfaction in this recovery, because the native bloaters are efficient
feeders, growing more on less food than do alewives.
Historically, bloaters were disdained as the
smallest and least attractive of Lake Superior's five deepwater chubs. Then overfishing
and the sea lamprey eliminated the larger chub species, leaving only the bloaters, a few
shortjaw and kiyi chubs, and some hybrids of these three species. As the sea lamprey
ravaged the top predators in the lake, bloaters grew in size and numbers.
U.S. fishermen have now turned to the
slow-growing bloaters to bolster their catches taken at 200 to 350-foot depths. Despite
the success of this market, Canadian fishermen rarely go out for them, except for some
fishermen on Lake Huron.
As a sport fish, bloaters hold little
attraction in either country. They dwell too far from shore, and their mouths are too
small for ordinary bait.