Webinar: Michigan EnviroImpact Tool Nutrient Application Planning

Event Date: 1/23/2019

Learn how to use a free decision support tool for short-term planning of manure application.

By Meaghan Gass, Michigan Sea Grant, and Erica Rogers, Michigan State University Extension

A tractor pulls a container spreading manure in a field.

Utilizing manure as a fertilizer source can be a cost-effective way for farmers to meet crop nutrient needs and, with effective application, be environmentally sustainable. Photo: Erica Rogers

Are you a farmer applying manure or commercial fertilizer to your farm fields? You are invited to attend a free webinar to learn more about the MI EnviroImpact Tool.

The MI EnviroImpact tool is a decision support tool for short-term manure application planning that shows daily runoff risk across Michigan. The tool’s runoff risk forecast comes from real-time precipitation and temperature forecasts, which are combined with snow melt, soil moisture, and landscape characteristics in order to forecast runoff events. With the tool, farmers can better determine when to apply manure as a fertilizer source with lower runoff risks.

A computer screenshot shows what the EnviroImpact Tool looks like with a specific day's forecast shown.

Planning reduces runoff risk

Nutrients found in manure and commercial fertilizers, like nitrogen and phosphorus, can enter rivers and streams as runoff, and in Michigan, almost all of our waterways flow to the Great Lakes. When it rains, these nutrients have the potential to wash into nearby waterways, leading to excess nutrients and overgrowth of algae or harmful algal blooms. These algal blooms can have a big impact on the Great Lakes watershed as they consume oxygen that fish need to survive and can affect the quality of drinking water. With manure application planning, farmers are able reduce the risk of nutrient runoff and help better protect the Great Lakes.

Manure application is just one possible source of excess algal growth, but with proper planning, farmers can help keep applied manure nutrients on their fields and reduce runoff entering the Great Lakes.

Register for the free webinar

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant are hosting a FREE webinar to support farmers with their manure application planning on Wednesday, Jan. 23 from 12-12:30pm (with additional time for questions). Visit http://bit.ly/MIEnviroImpactWebinar to register for the webinar. The webinar will be recorded and sent to all registrants, but attending the live webinar is encouraged to get any of your questions answered directly by experts.

If you have any questions or accessibility needs, please contact Erica Rogers (email: roger392@msu.edu or by phone: (989) 875-5233).

The Michigan EnviroImpact Tool was developed in partnership with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration National Weather Service, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, the Michigan State University Institute of Water Research, Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Extension. The tool is part of a regional effort to improve runoff risk decision support tools in the Great Lakes basin supported by the Environmental Protection AgencyGreat Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), and National Weather Service North Central River Forecast Center (NCRFC).

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 and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.

Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Trail website offers new opportunities

Newly launched site helps visitors explore locations and find events, experiences to help understand, appreciate our Great Lakes fisheries heritage.

By: Brandon Schroeder

People and coastal communities have both valued and benefited from Great Lakes fisheries throughout time. These Great Lakes fisheries – a story of people, fish, and fishing – are dynamic and ever changing. The Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Trail seeks to connect people and places, information and experiences for those interested in engaging in this story.

A newly launched website for the Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Trail offers interactive opportunities to explore the past, present and future of the lakes through the lens of fish and fishing.

Explore the Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Trail

Museum exhibits and educational opportunities along this trail highlight our fisheries heritage, ecology and management, economic and social issues that have defined coastal communities across the Great Lakes. The trail includes museums, coastal fishing communities, fish markets and processing facilities, events, research and science centers throughout the region.

  • View an interactive map of Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Trail sites to explore these expanded opportunities, including:
  • Trail sites and experiences across the Great Lakes that offer a wide variety of activities, information, or experiences relating to Great Lakes fisheries – past and present.
  • A growing trail network. A partnership with Wisconsin Sea Grant has fostered an opportunity to include new sites and expand opportunities among other Great Lakes states.
  • Community connections. Several communities or regional tourism partnerships have connected a collection of fisheries heritage sites, experiences and information to explore locally.
  • Trail stories. Themed trails offer a path for exploring the Great Lakes region by way of interesting stories. Explore the story behind the ‘turtle back’ gill net tug or learn about the life of a fisherman. Find fish markets and restaurants that sell or serve a taste of the Great Lakes.
  • Expanded access to organizational and educational information that may be of interest to educators, history buffs, or fish enthusiasts.

A community-supported website – learn how to get involved

The Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Trail represents a network and partnership among museum, maritime heritage, and fisheries partners cooperating to promote our fisheries heritage. The collective efforts of these partners is helping to preserve and interpret historical artifacts, enhance local communities and heritage-based tourism, and offer educational opportunities focusing on Great Lakes literacy and stewardship.

Would you like to learn more, have ideas to share or simply want to get your organization or community involved with this network and partnership? You can participate and share your fisheries heritage connections directly on this website or simply send an email toglfisheriestrail@gmail.com.

Lots of partners make it possible

Funding for this new Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Trail website was provided, in part, by the Michigan Coastal Zone Management ProgramMichigan Department of Natural Resources Office of the Great Lakes and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce; and supported by Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension.  The Northeast Michigan Council of GovernmentsLand information Access Association, along with fisheries and maritime heritage experts from Michigan Sea Grant, Cultural Consulting, History by Design, and Great Lakes History and Interpretation consulting provided leadership in facilitating design and content development for this new website.

A collaborative Design Team reflecting many federal, state, and local organizational partners and dedicated individuals contributed countless hours of enthusiasm and expertise, design creativity, and content for this site. This is a community-driven website — everyone’s contributions to the Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage story are invited.

Ottawa County features PFAS discussion at annual Water Quality Forum

Attendees learned how a broad category of chemicals known as PFAS might impact human health and heard examples of state and local government response.

By: Katelyn Brolick and Dan O’Keefe

A child's hand is shown pushing down on a drinking fountain handle in order to have water bubble up.

Drinking water contamination is another route of PFAS exposure that has been gaining public attention since the discovery of contaminated wells in Rockford and Plainfield Township last year.

This year’s Ottawa County Water Quality Forum was held on Nov. 19, 2018, in West Olive, Mich. The forum tackled many water quality issues that face county residents, including plastic pollution, saltwater intrusion into wells, and the impact of excess nutrients in local lakes. One of the bigger issues tackled at the forum was PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). Dr. Richard Rediske of Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Resources Institute has been looking into the effects and contamination of the chemical for the past five years. Dr. Rediske addressed the Water Quality Forum and provided facts on the harmful properties of these chemicals, as well as their many uses.

PFAS exposure

According to Dr. Rediske, PFAS is a broad category of more than 4,000 different chemical compounds which includes PFOS and PFOA. These chemicals are water soluble and are highly mobile within the environment. The fluorine-carbon bonds in PFAS are the fourth strongest bonds in nature, making PFAS very difficult to break down and dispose of. These chemicals are entering the environment and human bodies through exposure to a variety of products including firefighting foam, fast food wrappers, popcorn bags, pizza boxes, and car wax to name a few. Drinking water contamination is another route of PFAS exposure that has been gaining public attention since the discovery of contaminated wells in Rockford and Plainfield Township last year.

These chemicals bind to albumin in the bloodstream and are reabsorbed by the kidneys in humans.This results in a half-life of 4 to 7 years in humans. In animal studies, rats excrete PFAS chemicals in 1 to 3 days, so scientific studies using common test organisms do not reflect the same exposure levels as humans. The risks associated with long-term exposure are not fully understood, and standards for monitoring are still under development. Possible health effects of excessive PFAS exposure include increased risk of cancer, elevated cholesterol, a compromised immune system, and thyroid disease.

Protecting Michigan citizens

To close out the forum, a panel of PFAS experts convened to answer questions from the public. Dr. Rediske was joined by Abigail Hendershott, (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality), Cameron Van Wyngarden (Plainfield Township Superintendent), and Douglas Van Essen (attorney with Silver and Van Essen). Hendershott discussed what the Michigan PFAS taskforce is doing to help protect Michigan’s citizens. The taskforce is sampling all community water sources and schools that have their own water source. They are now moving on to testing daycares and some residential wells. Through testing, Robinson Elementary in Ottawa County was found at 171 parts per trillion (ppt). This exceeds the EPA’s 70 ppt recommendation for combined PFOS and PFOA. Water bottles were allocated to the school for drinking and cooking. A more permanent solution has not been discussed with the public.

Cameron Van Wyngarden discussed the solution that Plainfield Township adopted when they found their municipal sources were highly contaminated. They are now using carbon to filter all of the township’s water. Carbon filter can be an effective way to remove PFAS and PFOA from your home water tap. Douglas Van Essen added that, although PFAS are highly mobile and resistant to degradation, the human body does gradually excrete them over a period of years. This means that people can expect contamination in their bodies to gradually decline if sources of environmental exposure are cleaned up or eliminated.

Learn more

If you are concerned about your water source or would like more information on the topic the www.michigan.gov/pfasresponse site is an excellent source of information. Presentations from Dr. Rediske and other PFAS panel members are now online at the Ottawa County website.

Habitat restoration projects in Southeast Michigan preserve, restore 150 acres in 2018

Projects on the Detroit River take a break over winter, but more are planned for 2019.

By: Mary Bohling

An aerial photograph overlooks the reconstruction project at Lake Okonoka. The project included 45 acres of aquatic and upland habitat.

Completed in 2018, the Lake Okonoka project includes restoration of 45 acres of aquatic and upland habitat. Photo credit: Friends of the Detroit River

Cold weather is settling over the Great Lakes, including connecting waters such as the Detroit River. As construction companies wrap up their 2018 on-water operations until spring, several habitat restoration projects are put on hold. It has been a busy year for habitat restoration in the Detroit River for Michigan Sea Grant and our partners, such as Friends of the Detroit River. Much was accomplished but there is also much left to do when construction season begins in 2019.

Fish Spawning Reefs

A 4-acre fish spawning reef offshore of Fort Wayne was completed by the University of Michigan Water Center, Michigan Sea Grant, US FWS, USGS and other partners. This 2018 project brings the total number of fish spawning reefs constructed through this Detroit River partnership since 2003 to six for a total of more than 15 acres. 2018 also brought great news regarding the use of the constructed spawning reefs. It was the first time that fertilized eggs from the endangered lake sturgeon were found on all constructed reefs in the Detroit River.

Stony Island

More than 100 acres of coastal and upland habitat were enhanced and protected as a result of this project that was completed in the spring of 2018. The project increases ecological benefits for fish and wildlife including the re-establishment of spawning and nursery habitat for commercial, sport and forage fish species; revitalization of coastal wetlands; and protection of terrestrial resources within the Detroit River watershed. The project included construction of 3,500 linear feet (LF) of continuous rock shoals and 600 LF of shoal islands with nesting habitat for common terns; 92 habitat structures for mudpuppies, turtles and fish including rock piles, basking logs and woody debris bundles; creation of 50 acres of calm backwater for fish spawning and nursery activity; 10 acres of vegetation management including invasive species control; and protection from erosion for 52 acres of island habitat.

Celeron Island

Habitat restoration on and around the island is currently underway. Construction of 4,000 linear feet of rock shoals will be halted as winter sets in but will begin again in the spring of 2019. When completed in 2019, more than 100 acres of coastal wetlands, hibernacula for snakes, turtle nesting beaches, and common tern nesting areas will have been created.

Detroit Upper Riverfront Parks

Approximately 25 acres of wetlands, upland prairies and other habitat types will be constructed in 2019 at A.B. Ford and Lakewood-East Parks. In 2018, contractors hired by the US Environmental Protection Agency completed design plans to create habitat for fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians and pollinators. The city of Detroit also recently announced plans to add new playground equipment and other public amenities to the parks.

Milliken State Park

Through National Fish and Wildlife Funding (NFWF) via the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), the Michigan Department of Natural Resources restored native habitats on nearly an acre of property in 2018 at Milliken State Park located in downtown Detroit and directly across from the Outdoor Adventure Center. The property, previously lawn and filled with invasive species, was restored to a wet meadow and prairie complex including a mass shrub planting along the Detroit River and small trees that will eventually line an existing walkway with shade as they grow.

Lake Okonoka

Completed in 2018, this project includes restoration of 45 acres of aquatic and upland habitat. Lake Okonoka’s enhancements combined with the recent opening of Blue Heron Lagoon (another 41 acres) to the Detroit River will increase the availability of calm spawning and nursery habitat for Great Lakes fish. Deep water pools, basking logs and other habitat features will also benefit turtles, mudpuppies, snakes, mammals and birds. Completion of a new direct connection from Lake Okonoka to the Detroit River is expected to occur in 2019.

Belle Isle Flatwoods

Design plans for 280 acres of wet-mesic flatwoods on Belle Isle were completed in 2018. Permits will be applied for by the Michigan DNR Parks staff who will also secure construction funding. The project is expected to get underway in 2020, pending funding availability.

Hennipen Marsh

The design portion of the project, estimated to be about 40 acres of coastal marsh, is currently underway with field data being gathered. Feasibility and design are expected to be completed mid-2019 with construction happening once permits and funding are secured.

Sugar Island

More than 60 people attended a public meeting on Nov. 14, 2018, to talk about the preliminary results of a feasibility and design project at Sugar Island. The island is owned and managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as part of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. Design plans were completed in 2018 that include the creation of rocky shoals, protection of bluffs and other habitat features. Permits will be sought in 2019 with construction expected to begin late 2019 or early 2020, pending funding.

Find more information about many of these habitat projects can be found on the Friends of the Detroit River Projects webpage.

Ludington Regional Fishery Workshop

Event Date: 1/19/2019

January 19, 2019

8:45 a.m.–2:45 p.m.

Doors open at 8:00 a.m.

West Shore Community College
Administration and Conference Building
3000 North Stiles Road, Scottville, MI 49454

The annual Ludington Regional Fishery Workshop addresses issues important to Lake Michigan charter captains, recreational anglers, and conservationists.  This year’s event will feature a broad range of topics including sea lamprey control, exotic mussels, and the balance of predators and prey fish in Lake Michigan.

The afternoon will close with a special session on cormorant control. Depredation orders allowed for lethal control of cormorants before a 2016 federal court decision struck the orders down.  The afternoon session will provide historical context on the issue with an eye toward the future.

PRE-REGISTER online or by phone by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 15. Pre-registration is $30/person and includes lunch. If you have not attended this workshop in the past, you will need to create an account create an account to register online.  To register by phone call Cara Mitchell at (231) 843-5825.

For those who do not register in advance, walk-in registration is $35/person and lunch may not be included depending on availability.

Contact 

Dan O’Keefe, Ph.D.
Southwest District Extension Educator
Michigan Sea Grant
Michigan State University Extension
okeefed@msu.edu

Fisheries science creates connections with northeast Michigan educators and youth

Teachers team up with scientists to explore how fisheries science experiences and Great Lakes stewardship opportunities can enhance student learning.

By: Brandon Schroeder and Dan O’Keefe

Three teachers assist a scientist in pulling a net out of lake as they experience fisheries science during two-day Lake Huron Place-Based Education Summer Teacher Institute. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

Michigan teachers experience fisheries science during two-day Lake Huron Place-Based Education Summer Teacher Institute. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

Great Lakes, fish and fishing are a common thread in conversations among residents in northeast Michigan coastal communities – and also in school learning opportunities with students. This fall, fifth-grade students from Ella White Elementary (Alpena Public Schools) welcomed a juvenile Lake Sturgeon into their classroom as part of a Lake Huron and biodiversity conservation learning experience supported by one of their many community partners, Sturgeon for Tomorrow.

One week later, these same students were in waders (and in the water)  investigating watershed issues as part of their Thunder Bay Watershed Project. Working alongside scientists from Michigan Sea GrantMichigan State University ExtensionNOAA Thunder Bay National Marine SanctuaryU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Huron Pines AmeriCorps students collected data on invasive species like rusty crayfish and zebra mussels found in the river, sampled for microplastics (very small plastic particles or fibers) in the river, among other water quality explorations. Another class of Ella White Elementary students similarly monitored Thunder Bay River water quality and explored marine debris issues at their local Sytek Park.

Other school programs explore fisheries science, too

This is far from the only fisheries science and watershed explorations with schools across northeast Michigan this year. This past spring, Onaway High School visited the NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, exploring underwater robotics, and learning about fisheries science careers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alpena, Mich. These students also are hosting Lake Sturgeon in their classroom, and plan to visit with local fisheries scientists from the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife working locally at the Black River Sturgeon Streamside Research Station. Besser Elementary (Alpena Public Schools)Oscoda Area Schools, and Alcona Community School students are participating in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Salmon in the Classroom program this year. These classes will be receiving salmon eggs in the fall, and Alcona Elementary students have visited their local stream (near the local marina) to kick-off some watershed studies and lead a litter pickup with several local community partners.

In common, these projects are all supported through the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) network, a school-community place-based education partnership. NEMIGLSI recently received a Great Lakes NOAA B-WET program grant to expand watershed studies and fisheries stewardship opportunities among schools in this region. Led by Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension, this NOAA B-WET strives to provide support for educators and meaningful watershed education experiences for students – experiences framed in our valuable Great Lakes fisheries. Supporting the teachers behind these student experiences, the regional Sea Grant Center for Great Lakes Literacy (CGLL) serves to foster Great Lakes science connections with education.

Teachers explore watersheds, ways to expand student learning

This past summer, the NEMIGLSI network, CGLL, and this Great Lakes NOAA B-WET project collaborated to offer the 2018 Lake Huron Summer Place-Based Stewardship Education Summer Institute. Fifteen teachers from across the Lake Huron watershed (and beyond) convened in Alcona County, Mich., and worked alongside Great Lakes scientists and community partners with a goal of expanding their students’ learning experiences through watershed studies and fisheries stewardship experiences. Framed in place-based education practices, educators explored local watersheds, interacted with fisheries science and stakeholders, and considered many ways in which fisheries benefit our community.

As part of this Summer Institute experience, teachers also considered the many values in fish beyond their roles in the ecosystem – for example, fish are fun to catch, provide a local food source, and contribute social and economic values. Teachers experienced this first hand when meeting with Lake Huron commercial fisherman bringing in their catch of Lake Whitefish and visiting Cedar Brook Trout Farm where they learned about the aquaculture industry, had fun fishing, and explored math and science learning values in the fish they caught.

Engaging teachers in a fisheries science experience, Huron Pines, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan Sea Grant, and MSU Extension led a variety of fisheries science sessions in local waterways investigating water habitats and watershed issues, fish biology and ecosystem sciences, and fisheries research and management techniques. Teachers learned about gear used by scientists to sample fish (including an underwater look and video of their fyke net deployed), collect data on fish from identification to measurements, and how to apply science and math skills (and a variety of other skills, including art) to help students analyze data and answer science questions.

The end goal for educators participating in this Lake Huron PBSE Summer Teacher Institute was to explore opportunities for expanding student learning – and connections with community – by engaging their students in local Great Lakes watershed explorations and fisheries stewardship projects. It was an exciting week for teachers, exploring Great Lakes literacy and learning through place-based education stewardship practices. Already, these teachers are translating their experiences into meaningful watershed education experiences and place-based fisheries stewardship education opportunities with their students across northeast Michigan.

Students partner in invasive management, habitat restoration project

Tawas Middle School students help to manage invasive Phragmites in their community – learning and having some fun along the way.

By: Brandon Schroeder

Four students stand in a wetland and measure density of Phragmites in a designated area.

Tawas Middle School students help to manage invasive Phragmites by measuring the density of Phragmites in a targeted area in their community.

A stand of invasive Phragmites plants towered over the heads of Tawas Area Middle School students as they stood in the thick of it all wearing waders and smiles. These students, through their applied learning, are partners in a community habitat restoration effort aimed at managing this invasive wetland plant in an area located near the local hospital.

The goal is to eventually manage this area as a rain garden by restoring native water-loving plants. Aside from mitigating the impacts of invasive species, the restored rain garden habitat would help to absorb rainwater and reduce runoff from the hospital’s parking lot.

Students collected field data on clipboards to calculate density and survival rates of the Phragmites. Photo: Michigan Sea GrantThe Iosco County Conservation DistrictHuron PinesHuron Pines AmeriCorpsMichigan Sea GrantMichigan State University Extension, along with several community partners and the Ascension St. Joseph Hospital, have been working together to manage this particular Phragmites stand since 2017. Through the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) network, these partners quickly identified an opportunity to connect with Tawas Area Schools and involve students. Working with lead teacher Adrianne Dittenbir and a team of teachers from the school, this school-community partnership blossomed with the idea that this project could serve as a great learning opportunity for students – and a great opportunity for students to apply their learning and contribute to the project in meaningful way.

Many hands working together

The team of community partners joined in support of the students for their day in the field, sharing their time and expertise to enhance the students’ learning experience. Working in teams, students moved among several stations. One station involved collecting field data to calculate density and survival rates of the Phragmites. Another explored the issue of invasive species and Phragmites, a little plant biology and comparing native and invasive species, and an overview of the treatment and management process. Students also mapped the site, discussing future habitat restoration plans and opportunities following removal. They also did some litter pickup – enhancing the local grounds, their community, and preventing litter from ending up as marine debris in Lake Huron.

Students are applying their science and math skills to monitor and evaluate effectiveness of the treatment. Students first visited the hospital site in October 2017 to collect data before the first treatment of Phragmites took place. They measured and mapped the total area infested with Phragmites and counted plant stems in several sample areas to calculate density per square meter. This year a new group of students returned – exactly one year to the day – to repeat this same research protocol. Additionally they calculated proportion (and percentage) of living plant stems in each of their sample plots to determine how successful the previous year’s treatment was. Students put their math skills to the test measuring, counting, adding, calculating density and proportions – their applied math relevant in analyzing, interpreting results of their science investigations in support of this project. The data students collected at each visit is informing future treatment of the Phragmites by partners and supporting conservation efforts in their local community.

Beyond the classroom learning

This project reflects a great example of place-based stewardship education in action. This school-community project partnership resulted in a mutually beneficial opportunity for students to expand their learning beyond the classroom. Students served as valued partners in this wetland habitat restoration effort, and in trade, community partners are invested in school improvement opportunities, supporting this educator team and enhancing the student learning experience. And with their feet wet and hands a little dirty, these enthusiastic students enjoyed a fun-filled, hands-on learning experience while restoring wetland habitats within their own local community.

Michigan Sea Grant, MSU Extension, Huron Pines, among other partners, provide leadership for the local NEMIGLSI network, which is part of the statewide Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative(GLSI) partnership. This partnership provides a variety of information, resources and support for place-based education, including the benefits of place-based education as an educational strategy and guiding principles for place-based education in practice.

Great Lakes Fisheries: The Fish and the People Who Fish

Event Date: 11/8/2018

Great Lakes fisheries – fish and people who fish – have significantly benefited coastal communities, the Great Lakes region and the nation throughout history and still today. Learn about our dynamic Great Lakes fisheries and a new Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Trail which offers the opportunity to explore the past, present and future of the lakes through the lens of fish and fishing, presented by Brandon Schroeder.

A Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator, Schroeder has served coastal Lake Huron counties in northeast Michigan for nearly 15 years. His current Sea Grant Extension efforts involve fisheries science, sustainable coastal tourism development, Lake Huron biodiversity conservation, and promoting Great Lakes literacy and education opportunities.

The program will be held 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Nov. 8 at the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan, 491 Johnson St, Alpena, MI 49707, USA (map). The cost is $3 museum entry fee. Museum members do not pay.

After the program, explore Besser Museum exhibits that highlight fisheries history and heritage, ecology and management, social-economic values and issues that have defined our northern Lake Huron coastal communities.

The program is organized by the Association of Lifelong Learners at Alpena Community College, a not-for-profit organization which sponsors, promotes and encourages lifelong educational and enrichment experiences for people of all ages in northeast Michigan.

Beautiful Belle Isle: Detroit’s Unique Urban Park

New Michigan Sea Grant book offers a self-guided tour of 22 Belle Isle locations, their stories and history.

By Mary Bohling

Book cover shows an aerial view of Belle Isle, a state park located in the Detroit River between the US and Canada. The guidebook reveals the unique aspects of how the island has evolved over time, from early English settlement to the connection to New York’s Central Park and today as Michigan’s 102nd State Park.

Book cover shows an aerial view of Belle Isle, a state park located in the Detroit River between the US and Canada. The guidebook reveals the unique aspects of how the island has evolved over time, from early English settlement to the connection to New York’s Central Park and today as Michigan’s 102nd State Park.

Belle Isle Park is a beautiful island park in the Detroit River – and one of my favorite places. The island is owned by the City of Detroit and managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources as a state park. The island also has a lot of history and interesting stories to tell:

  • Did you know that the island was once known as Pig or Hog Island, as early settlers used to bring their hogs out to the island for the summer?
  • Did you know that Belle Isle Aquarium is the oldest public aquarium in North America?
  • Did you know that the Art Deco lighthouse on the island was designed by well-known Detroit architect Albert Kahn and has been lit since it began operating in 1930?

A book is born

For several years I gave tours around the island using information gleaned from a variety of sources. Those tours included colorful stories of rumored Speakeasies and prominent Detroiters, architectural roots of various buildings and habitat restoration projects I have assisted with. I soon realized that I either needed to make giving tours a full-time job or find a different way to share this information! I decided I couldn’t give up my day job as a Michigan State University Extension educator with Michigan Sea Grant — thus came this book, “Beautiful Belle Isle: Detroit’s Unique Urban Park.”

Guidebook features 22 sites

This self-guided tour book features 22 sites of historical, cultural and ecological significance on the island. Readers can learn history and stories about this beautiful 982-acre park located between the United States and Canada. The guidebook reveals the unique aspects of how the island has evolved over time, from early English settlement to the connection to New York’s Central Park and today as Michigan’s 102nd State Park.

Many people contributed photos, content, editing, design and much more to make this guidebook a reality. Printing of the book was funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The book will be available to use with bike and kayak rentals at the island and is printed on water resistant paper. It is also available for purchase on the Michigan Sea Grant website for $12. Hopefully by using this guidebook, visitors will come to love the history, stories and the island as much as I do.

Charter fishing continues to boost tourism in coastal towns

Charter fishing on Lake Huron picked up steam in 2017 while other lakes held strong.

By Daniel O’Keefe

Young boy holds up walleye while standing on a boat.

Walleye have been increasingly important to Lake Huron’s charter fishery, rising from 6 percent of the harvest in 2002 to 61 percent in 2017. (Data provided by Michigan DNR.)

Charter fishing catch and effort statistics from 2017 are now available from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Charter Boat Reporting Program. Each year, the economic impact of charter fishing is calculated by Michigan Sea Grant based on the number of fishing trips that charter captains report to the DNR.

Despite the many problems that challenge the future of Great Lakes fisheries, charter fishing continues to provide an important component of coastal tourism. In fact, the economic impact of tourism generated by charter fishing in Michigan rose to $25.4 million in 2017. This represents a 4.5 percent increase from 2016 to 2017 after adjusting for inflation.

Lake Michigan holds steady

The Lake Michigan fishery has experienced a lot of uncertainty in recent years, but the lake’s charter fishing industry has been remarkably steady since the late 1990s. Fluctuations in charter fishing effort (and resulting economic impacts) have not been closely linked to catch rates, in part because fishing success has ranged from good to fantastic since Chinook salmon recovered from a bacterial kidney disease (BKD) epidemic in the mid-1990s.

In 2017, charter captains logged 12,122 fishing trips in Michigan waters of Lake Michigan, generating tourism that created over $7 million in personal income and over 322,000 employment hours. This was very similar to the economic impact of 11,791 trips reported in 2016, and reflects the continued high level of interest in charter fishing for salmon and trout.

Lake Michigan offers anglers a variety of trout and salmon species, but Chinook salmon are often considered the premier gamefish. Charter fishing produced an average of 2.1 Chinooks per trip in 2017, which is similar to catch rates in 2015 and 2016. Prior to 2013, Chinook salmon targeted catch rates were much higher (up to 7.4 per charter trip) but fishing effort and economic impacts were similar.

Catch rates are calculated by the Michigan DNR, and these rates represent the number of Chinooks caught per trip targeting salmon and trout of all species. These targeted catch rates are used to exclude incidental salmon catches taken by anglers fishing for walleye, bass, or other fish that are targeted using different gear or methods.

The resurgence of Lake Huron

Much of the angst surrounding declining Chinook salmon catch rates on Lake Michigan is related to the crash of Lake Huron’s salmon fishery in 2004. After Chinook salmon targeted catch rates fell from 2.4 fish per charter trip in 2004 to 1.2 fish per trip in 2005 the Lake Huron charter fishery was cut in half.

Although Lake Huron’s charter industry was never as large as Lake Michigan’s, the impact of lost tourism and fishing opportunities was devastating to many coastal communities. From 2006 to 2015, Lake Huron captains logged fewer than 2,000 charter trips per year, but in 2016 things started looking up. Fishing effort rose to 2,154 trips in 2016 – just below the long-term average of 2,176 (1990-2017). In 2017, Lake Huron rose above this long-term average for the first time since 2004 with 2,548 trips logged.

The economic impact of Lake Huron charter fishing has increased by roughly 45 percent since 2015. In 2017, charter fishing generated tourism that created over 90,000 employment hours and $1.2 million in personal income for coastal communities on Lake Huron. When adjusted for inflation, this looks more like the good old days than the “collapsed fishery” we have heard so much about.

There are some big differences between today’s Lake Huron charter fishery and the fishery of 2002, though. For one thing, Chinook salmon remain scarce in most of the lake for most of the year. In fact, anglers targeting salmon and trout caught fewer than one Chinook for every two trips taken in 2017. The resurgence in Lake Huron’s fishery is not due to any recovery of Chinook salmon, but solid lake trout fishing, phenomenal walleye catch rates (over 25 fish caught per charter trip targeting walleye), and changing regulations on Saginaw Bay may have had positive impacts. Saginaw Bay now accounts for 41 percent of charter fishing effort on Lake Huron, up from a low of around 8 percent in 2005.

Since 2015, anglers on Saginaw Bay have been able to keep up to eight walleye per day, and the minimum size limit was reduced from 15 to 13 inches. The long term biological goal is, in part, to reduce the number of walleye preying on yellow perch. Historically, yellow perch have been extremely important in drawing anglers to Great Lakes fisheries so this could be an additional boon in years to come.

While things do seem to be looking up on Lake Huron, it is also possible that 2017 was just an exceptionally good year relative to the “new normal.” It would be premature to assume that other species have effectively filled in the gap left by the loss of Chinook salmon, but results from last year’s charter season are definitely encouraging. Anecdotal reports from the 2018 season suggest that fishing effort and harvest may be a bit lower on Saginaw Bay because of high winds that result in cancelled trips and warm water that caused walleye to leave the bay earlier than usual.

Other waters continue to offer world class fishing

Although salmon get a lot of attention when it comes to charter fishing, many Michigan waters offer incredible fishing opportunities for other species. Lake Erie provides fast fishing for walleye, with 2017 being no exception. Lake Superior’s vast expanse of cold water attracts lake trout anglers. Some Superior charter captains offer trips that focus on casting or jigging, which offers a fun alternative to trolling methods used in most Great Lakes lake trout waters. The St. Mary’s River hosts a run of Atlantic salmon, which is renowned for its tendency to jump repeatedly when hooked. Atlantics are also starting to show up regularly in northern and southern Lake Huron due to expanded stocking.

Detroit may be the largest urban center in Michigan, but it also provides some of the fastest fishing around. The St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, and the Detroit River offer catch-and-release charter fishing options on some of the best smallmouth bass and musky waters in the world. The musky is known as the “fish of 10,000 casts” but in 2017 charter fishing in Lake St. Clair produced an average of 2.7 fish per trip. Charter trips targeting bass on Lake St. Clair produced over 25 fish per trip in 2017. Yellow perch and walleye also provide great fishing for charter anglers who prefer to keep their catch. The Detroit River is a hotspot for walleye in the spring, and walleye charters harvested an average of 16 fish per trip in 2017.

No matter where you are in Michigan, quality charter fishing is never very far from your doorstep.