Long-term population trends are generally explained by factors extrinsic (e.g., climate, predation) rather than intrinsic (e.g., genetics, maternal effects) to the population. We sought to understand the long-term population dynamics of an important native Lake Michigan prey fish, the bloaterCoregonus hoyi. Over a 38-year time series, three 10- to 15-year phases occurred (poor, excellent, and then poor recruitment) without high interannual variability within a particular phase. We used dynamic linear models to determine whether extrinsic (winter and spring temperature, alewife predator densities) or intrinsic factors (population egg production, adult condition, adult sex ratio) explained variation in recruitment. Models that included population egg production, sex ratio, winter and spring temperature, and adult bloater condition explained the most variation. Of these variables, sex ratio, which ranged from 47% to 97% female across the time series, consistently had the greatest effect: recruitment declined with female predominance. Including biomass of adult alewife predators in the models did not explain additional variation. Overall our results indicated that bloater recruitment is linked to its sex ratio, but understanding the underlying mechanisms will require additional efforts.