News and Events

Marquette Water Safety and Recreational Expo

Event Date: 8/7/2015

water safety and rec advertisement 2015 (1) copy

Beachgoers can learn about dangerous currents that exist at Marquette’s beaches at the Marquette Water Safety and Recreation Expo to be held 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 7, 2015, at McCarty’s Cove. This event is being sponsored by the National Weather Service, Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Sea Grant, the City of Marquette, and the YMCA of Marquette County.

Contact Ron Kinnunen for more details.

Invasive red swamp crayfish found in Holland

Red Swamp Crayfish Procambarus_clarkii credit Mike Murphy

Red Swamp Crayfish, Photo: Mike Murphy

The remains of invasive crayfish were found at a popular fishing site on Lake Macatawa

Native crayfish don’t get much attention in the world of aquatic science. In fact, the last comprehensive survey of crayfish in Michigan waters was conducted in 1975. The underwater world has changed a lot since then, in large part due to the arrival of invasive species like the rusty crayfish. Dr. Brian Roth with Michigan State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife is leading a project in collaboration with the Michigan DNR-Fisheries Division that will map the current distribution of both native and invasive crayfish species.

In addition to the mapping component, Dr. Roth and graduate student Kelley Smith are also working on a risk assessment for another invader that has never been found alive in Michigan waters. The red swamp crayfish is an incredibly hardy and destructive pest that also happens to taste great. Although the red swamp crayfish is native to the southern U.S., invasive populations have invaded coldwater streams in Germany and would likely flourish in many habitats in the Great Lakes region.

A sampling crew led by Smith was working on Lake Macatawa in Holland, Michigan, last month when the two components of the crayfish project came together. While taking a break from crayfish trapping, Smith decided to walk along a boardwalk and look for evidence of red swamp crayfish.

Two years ago, conservation officers with Michigan Department of Natural Resources noticed some anglers on Lake Macatawa and the lower Grand River were using red swamp crayfish as bait. In 2013, it was illegal to transport live crayfish into Michigan for use as bait, but loopholes remained.

crayfishposterThe red swamp crayfish is widely available from southern fish farms and they are sold alive by food markets, pet stores, and biological suppliers. Anglers had evidently been buying crayfish intended for food or other uses, and then using them as bait. State law was changed in 2014 to prohibit possession of live red swamp crayfish, regardless of intended use.

Unfortunately, they are still being used as bait. Smith found the remains of several dead red swamp crayfish at Kollen Park in Holland on June 26, 2015. Although it is possible that anglers had purchased dead crayfish, it is also possible that they were purchased alive. Both the MSU crew and Michigan Department of Natural Resources conducted additional sampling in Lake Macatawa and the lower Grand River in response to the finding. To date, no live red swamp crayfish have been captured.

This is a good thing, because the red swamp crayfish is nearly impossible to get rid of once they establish breeding populations. They are able to move over land and construct burrows where they can evade even the most aggressive aquatic chemical controls. In fact, they are so hardy that they can survive in some wastewater treatment facilities after being flushed down the toilet.

To protect Michigan waters from the red swamp crayfish and other invaders, Michigan State University Extension recommends contacting a pet retailer or veterinarian regarding proper euthanasia and disposal of unwanted pets. Unwanted aquarium plants should be placed in sealed plastic bags before disposing in the trash. Unused live bait should also be disposed in the trash and never released into the wild. Report red swamp crayfish sightings and send photos to the DNR-Fisheries Division’s Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator (Seth Herbst, or by using the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN). If you find live red swamp crayfish being offered for sale in Michigan, contact the DNR’s Report All Poaching hotline (800) 292-7800.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.

Jump on board and become a Cruise Leader Volunteer!


Contact: Justin Selden, Great Lakes Education Program instructor
(586) 469-7139 or email 


The Great Lakes Education Program seeks Cruise Leader Volunteers to help elementary school students explore and learn about our Great Lakes.

Adults, ages 18 and older, will learn about our local river and lake resources and then share that knowledge through hands-on activities with students. Explore the physical, chemical, cultural and biological aspects of our water resources in fun and interesting ways aboard our schoolship!

Volunteers must attend a one-day training session and then will receive hands-on training on the boat before being certified as an official “Cruise Leader.” Cruises are scheduled Monday-Friday, are approximately 2.5 hours long and 2 cruises are scheduled each day. Volunteers can designate which days they are available. The time commitment per day would be 3 to 6 hours. Our morning route takes us down the Clinton River, starting at Mt. Clemens, into Lake St. Clair, and into Black Creek (Lake St. Clair Metropark), with a return trip in the afternoon.

Training dates for fall volunteers are Aug. 12, 19 and 25 (choose one). Training is held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Macomb County MSU Extension office, Suite 12, 21885 Dunham Road, Clinton Township. Use entrance E at the rear of the building. Participants also should bring a lunch.

For more information or to register, please call Justin Selden at (586) 469-7139 or email Learn more about the Great Lakes Education Program at

The Great Lakes Education Program is presented by Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension, in partnership with the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority and with support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Macomb County.

Heavy rainfall may increase risk of algal blooms in Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay

Algal Bloom Lake Erie 2500ft Tom Archer

View of an Algal bloom (from 2500 feet) along southeast Lake Erie shore of Pelee Island, Ontario (September, 2009). Photo: Tom Archer

Early summer storms have experts concerned about effect on waterways

By Katy Hintzen, Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Sea Grant

This past June was one of the wettest on record in the Midwest. Some of the heaviest storms in Michigan hit the southeast corner of the state and experts are concerned that high levels of phosphorus runoff into western Lake Erie may prompt record breaking algal blooms.

However, Lake Erie is not the only waterway that may see heavy rainfall impact water quality. Saginaw Bay shares many traits in common with Lake Erie that make it especially vulnerable to the environmental impacts of stormwater runoff. Both Saginaw Bay and Lake Erie are shallow bodies of water fed by very large drainage basins. In the case of Saginaw Bay, the drainage basin covers an area seven times bigger than the bay itself. A full 15 percent of the state of Michigan (8,709 square miles of land) is included within the Saginaw Bay watershed, meaning any rain that falls in this area eventually makes its way into Saginaw Bay.

The causes of algal blooms are complex but often a combination of warm temperatures, excess nutrients, and shallow slow moving water combine to create the perfect conditions for a major bloom. These three ingredients are most often present in shallow bodies of water that drain large areas of land, such as Saginaw Bay, Lake Erie, or Green Bay.

In some cases, algal blooms can produce toxins harmful to the health of humans and animals. These incidents are referred to as harmful algal blooms (HABs). It was a harmful algal bloom that contaminated Toledo’s water supply in August 2014. The most common harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes consist of blue-green algae. Despite its name, blue-green algae is not actually algae but rather a form of bacteria known in the scientific community as cyanobacteria. Like algae, cyanobacteria contains chlorophyll and gains energy through photosynthesis. More information about cyanobacteria and the potential health threats posed by HABs is available through the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (PDF).

Nutrients, primarily phosphorus and nitrogen, contribute to cyanobacteria growth in the same way that they promote faster growing flowers in our gardens and crops in our fields. Scientists believe that runoff from several sources including faulty septic systems, concentrated animal feeding operations, lawn fertilizers, urban stormwater, and agricultural fields are contributing to more frequent harmful algal blooms. Heavy rainfall can increase runoff from all of these sources and lead to higher levels of nutrients available to feed the growth of HABs. It’s a problem that will likely be further exacerbated by climate change as temperatures rise and we see more frequent extreme storm events.

Efforts to mitigate harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie gained national attention following the Toledo incident, leading to great strides in policy addressing nutrient runoff. However, it is important to be aware that this is not a threat unique to Lake Erie. Many communities across the Great Lakes rely on water bodies vulnerable to HABs. The creative solutions being employed to address nutrient runoff into Lake Erie could benefit these watersheds as well.

Citizen Scientists: Protecting the Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly

Event Date: 7/24/2015

Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly Credit Paul Burton

Protecting the Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly and High Quality Natural Habitats at Thompson’s Harbor and Negwegon State Parks

WHEN: Friday, July 24, 10:00 am – 12:00 noon

WHERE: Presque Isle District Library, 181 East Erie Street, Rogers City, MI 49779, (989) 734-2477

WHAT: Protecting the Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly and High Quality Natural Habitats at Thompson’s Harbor and Negwegon State Parks.

  • Learn about unique plants, animals and natural communities that occur here including the extremely rare Hine’s emerald dragonfly.
  • Learn how invasive plants threaten these important species and habitats.
  • Become a volunteer “citizen scientist” to help us find Hine’s emerald dragonfly larval habitat and map invasive species at the same time!
  • Get information about future trainings and participate in upcoming field surveys

WHO: Anyone interested in learning more about these parks and this two year project to protect the Hine’s emerald dragonfly.

REGISTER: Please register by July 23 to attend this free presentation. Contact: Blake Gingrich, Hoeft State Park (989) 734-2543 or email:

Questions: Please contact Bill Grigg (Friends of Thompson Harbor) or (989-734-4385) or Daria Hyde (Michigan Natural Features Inventory) or (517-284-6189)

Sponsored by: Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Friends of Thompson’s Harbor, Friends of Negwegon, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Parks Stewardship ProgramHuron Pines and Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative.

Funding provided by: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program Grant through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

Join National Geographic for BioBlitz

Event Date: 7/25/2015



Rhett Register, Michigan Sea Grant Communications Program Leader, (734) 647-0767
Brandon Schroeder, Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educator, Northeast District, (989) 354-9885

Adults and children of all ages are invited to BioBlitz, a special one-day nature event, to be held 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 25 at Treetops Project Nature in Gaylord. Part of National Geographic’s Great Nature Project, participants help scientists collect plant and animal information and photos from the area’s old growth forest, ponds and the Sturgeon River. Photos and information will be added to a database accessible to scientists and decision makers around the world.

Special activity stations with hands-on displays and resources will be offered by Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan State University Extension and other organizations.

“Michigan Sea Grant will present Great Lakes fisheries and aquaculture resources,” says Brandon Schroeder, a Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator. “The exhibit will especially emphasize the issue of aquatic invasive species.”

Schroeder also will be seeking people to continue the biodiversity assessment effort as part of the Northeast Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative. This regional network of education and community partners promotes hands-on, place-based education as a method for developing knowledgeable and active stewards of the environment.

“We hope to find people who want to translate this exciting one-day event into a longer-term project that can help with a local school,” he adds.

BioBliz participants who complete each of the activity stations will receive a pin and the title “Citizen Scientist.”

Join for an hour or two, or spend the entire day exploring Project Nature. Registration is $10 per person, $35 per family and free for children age 4 and under. Box lunches also can be ordered.

The event is hosted by the University Center Gaylord. To learn more and to register, visit


Great Lakes Sea Grant Network Meeting

Event Date: 9/9/2015
End Date: 9/11/2015


A draft agenda is available and will be updated with the final agenda prior to the event.


Travel day is Tuesday, if you arrive in Burlington early enough (or come to explore a little over the long Labor Day weekend), we will have several activities planned. If you are interested in participating in one of these, please select the option during registration.

Wednesday will be plenary and breakout sessions, with dinner on your own. Thursday we will have some break out sessions, followed by opportunities to connect with network groups or meet with staff from your program and a lunch buffet. Following lunch, professional development field trips will be available. In the evening, we will have a cocktail hour, followed by a plated dinner, awards banquet and guest speaker. Friday will be final breakout sessions and plenary, ending at noon for travel back to your home state.

Professional Development Trips

You will have an opportunity to participate in one of five professional development trips on Thursday. You will have the option to select what you are most interested in during registration, but are not required to decide at that time. Please see this document for more information about each of the trips.

Options for Thursday field trips include:

  • Green Infrastructure Walking Tour
  • R/V Melosira
  • Intervale Center Farm tour
  • Water Quality Monitoring and Stewardship – Stream Clean Up Month
  • Tour the Leahy Center including ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, Lake Champlain Basin Program Resource Room, and the Rubenstein Laboratory

Tuesday Travel Day Activities

There will be several optional activities on Tuesday for anyone arriving early and interested in exploring the region. You will have the option to select among these activities (and pay for them) during registation. Activities include:

  • Burlington brewery tour, stopping at seven breweries in the Burlington area (cost $20 for van transport and samples at breweries, maximum 10 people, 1-4pm Tuesday).
  • A bike tour around the city, including along Lake Champlain – this can be as easy or difficult of a ride and as long or short as the group would like (4 person minimum, cost $25 for bike rental, 1-4pm).
  • A hike at a local state park, Mt. Philo, with views overlooking Lake Champlain (cost $10 for van transport and state park admission fee, 1-4pm).
  • Field trips to New York are also an option – take a ferry ($16.00 round trip) across the lake to do one of the following options withMark Malchoff (contact by August 7 if interested and for more details – payment will be direct at time of trip)
    • Kayak tour of lower Ausable River/Ausable Point ($35.00/6 hours)
    • Walking tour of Ausable Chasm, NY ($17.00/4 hours)
    • Whiteface Mountain Veteran’s Memorial Highway ($10.00/6 hours)


The meeting will be held at the Burlington Hilton Garden Inn, where we also have a block of rooms reserved. The group code is SEAGRN.

The hotel is located in the heart of downtown Burlington within easy walking access to the Burlington Waterfront of Lake Champlain, the Church Street Marketplace, and many excellent dining options.

Burlington Airport

The Burlington International Airport serves several major airlines, including United, Delta, U.S. Airways, and JetBlue. Direct flights include through Chicago, Detroit, New York, and Philadelphia.  The airport is conveniently located a few miles from downtown Burlington. The hotel will offer a free shuttle to and from the airport, simply call the hotel (802-951-0099).


Please contact Elissa Schuett or Erin De Vries with any questions about the meeting.

Freshwater drum are fun to catch, but can you eat them?

Freshwater drum - Aplodinotus grunniens copy

Blackening, boiling and grilling are all tasty options with this fish

By Dan O’Keefe, Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Sea Grant

Late June and early July can be a slow time on the calendar for Michigan anglers. Inland lakes have settled into summer patterns after post-spawn fishing for bass, walleye, pike, and panfish. Rivers and streams have yet to settle into summer lows that are ideal for wading or bank fishing in the predictable spots fish congregate in low water. The freshwater drum (a.k.a. sheephead) provides a nice way to fill the weeks before salmon start congregating near river mouths for their annual spawning run.

Drum activity peaks in early summer in west Michigan. The lower section of large rivers like the St. Joseph and Grand, drowned rivermouth lakes like Muskegon Lake and Lake Macatawa, and any pier along the coast of Lake Michigan can be very productive for fish ranging from 2 to over 12 pounds. Although some anglers have caught on the sporting qualities of this unique native fish, very few are aware that freshwater drum can make a surprisingly good meal. Sometimes.

A quick Internet search reveals a lot of conflicting information on the merits of drum as table fare. Some people report regularly eating and enjoying freshwater drum, and others report trying it once and never again due to a bad experience. Both ends of the spectrum make sense based on my own experience and the limited science-based literature available on the subject.

Not bony, but not meaty either

Freshwater drum can be filleted in the same way as any other fish.  As with most gamefish, the fillets will contain nothing more than a few “pin” bones – small secondary ribs that can be eaten, removed after cooking, or removed before cooking with a V-cut depending on your preference. Although the fillets are mostly bone free, they are also thin relative to the size of the fish. As with other gamefish, the dark red meat near the skin (sometimes called a mud line) should be removed along with the skin to improve flavor and reduce contaminants.

Don’t expect flaky

The texture of small to mid-sized drum (12 to 17 inches) can be described as firm or somewhat meaty in comparison to the more flaky texture of walleye and bass of a comparable size. Larger drum vary from firm to decidedly tough in texture, which is very unusual for fish. In fact, traditional methods of frying or baking do not work well for large drum because of their odd texture. However, cutting the meat into smaller shrimp-sized bites before boiling or grilling can make for a great shrimp substitute. Ohio Sea Grant offers a Guide to Utilizing the Freshwater Drum and includes instructions for preparation. Blackening is another way to take advantage of firm fish, which also stands up well in fish tacos or fish kebabs (teriyaki or shrimp-on-the-barbie recipes are my personal favorites).

Variable flavor

Drum fillets are not bony and the firm texture can be an asset if prepared correctly, but one bad-tasting bite is enough to make most fish-eaters swear off a species for life. Wild fish live in a variety of lakes and rivers and eat a variety of food items that can influence the flavor of their meat. Some fish species are consistently tasty, while others tend to vary from one body of water to another or even one season to the next. I have had terrible-tasting smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, channel catfish and walleye fillets as well as excellent meals of the same species.

Freshwater drum, particularly large individuals, also vary in flavor from one area to another. One study documented that the flavor of drum declined in areas close to a polluted tributary of the Mississippi River. Reports from Ohio in the late 1800s indicated that Ohio River drum tasted much better than Lake Erie drum, and even suggested that river fish should be transplanted to Lake Erie. Although rivers may look dirtier than Great Lakes waters, my own experience suggests that drum caught from upstream areas of the Grand River taste better than fish caught off the mouth at Lake Michigan. Off-flavored drum from the mouth of the Grand River had been feeding heavily on alewife.

What about contaminants?

This may come as surprise, but “Eat Safe Fish” guidelines from Michigan Department of Community Health show that freshwater drum in a given body of water are more comparable to gamefish like bass, walleye, and pike than bottom-feeding carp and channel catfish. For example, MDCH lists one meal per month of drum from Saginaw Bay as “safe” for all Michigan residents while Saginaw Bay carp and catfish are placed in the “Do Not Eat” category. Recommendations for the popular walleye limit “safe” consumption to six meals per year. Guidelines for eating drum have not been published for many west Michigan water bodies due to lack of sampling, but do not automatically assume that freshwater drum are less wholesome than other large gamefish.

In short, Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension recommend checking the Eat Safe Fish guide before trying a drum or two from your local fishing hole. As with any species, smaller individuals are generally safer to eat and taste better. With a little ingenuity you might find that the early-summer drum bite can provide some good meals in addition to fast fishing action!

Shells of the Grand River: Past, Present and Future

Event Date: 8/13/2015

What do fresh water pearls, button factories, snail bi-valves and fish have in common? Dr. Dan O’Keefe will connect these topics in a presentation called, “Shells of the Grand River.” Participants will also explore the banks of the Grand River. Best for adults and children ages 11+.

Presentation on Stocked and Wild Salmon

Event Date: 7/30/2015

Steelhead, Chinook, Coho

Stocked or wild? The answer might surprise you

Anglers around Lake Michigan have had “Salmon Fever” since modern stocking programs began in 1966.

Dr. Dan O’Keefe will share results from Grand Haven anglers who volunteered to keep track of stocked and wild salmon in 2014, along with underwater video from Lake Michigan.

There is no charge for this event and registration is not required.

Thursday, July 30
7:00 – 8:15 p.m.

Spring Lake District Library
123 Exchange Street
Spring Lake, MI 49456