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.

Salmon run offers unique fish-watching opportunities for nature enthusiasts

Birds and mammals are usually the focus for wildlife watchers, but the fall salmon run provides spectacular fish-watching opportunities, too. Visit weirs and dams in west Michigan this fall or watch a new video to enjoy the spectacle.

By Daniel O’Keefe

Coho salmon gather in shallow water during the fall run in the Platte River near Honor, Michigan.

Hunting and fishing get much of the attention when it comes to outdoor recreation, but a recent survey by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service found that more Americans engage in wildlife watching than fishing and hunting combined. The survey found that 17 million people traveled for bird watching in 2016, while 4.3 million traveled to watch fish.

Of course, birds are usually much easier to observe in their natural environment than fish – but fall in west Michigan offers a chance to watch salmon as they jump barriers and congregate in clear, shallow water to spawn. The large fish are often easy to see in clear water, but polarized sunglasses can be helpful to cut through glare on the surface.

Rivers of the northwestern Lower Peninsula provide excellent opportunities to view salmon due to high quality habitat and a combination of natural reproduction and stocking. Smaller natural runs can be found in creeks scattered around the state, and stocking supports large runs of salmon in some rivers where spawning habitat is lacking. Some of the best locations for watching salmon are closed to fishing during the salmon run because fish are so abundant and vulnerable to fishing or illegal snagging (be sure to check the latest version of Michigan Fishing Guide for current regulations if you plan to fish at any of the following locations).

Weirs

During their upstream migration, salmon encounter obstacles both natural and man-made. Weirs are removable man-made barriers that serve to block the passage of fish upstream at certain times of the year. Michigan Department of Natural Resourcesoperates several weirs, and some of the best fish watching opportunities in the state can be found below weirs on the Little Manistee River east of Stronach, Platte River near Honor, and Boardman River in Traverse City. Check links for driving directions and details for each location or click here to learn more about how and why weirs are operated.

Dams and fish ladders

Dams provide great opportunities for fish watching because they are often located in urban environments and are easily accessible to large numbers of people. Fish Ladder Park in Grand Rapids is one of the best places to view salmon beginning around Labor Day. Visitors can see salmon jumping at Sixth Street Dam on the Grand River and ascending a fish ladder that allows salmon to work their way upstream one small step at a time. Brenke Fish Ladder in Lansing is another option for viewing coho salmon in the Grand River later in the season (October and November). Other dams like Tippy Dam near Wellston, Homestead Dam near Benzonia, and Hamlin Dam at Ludington State Park are farther off the beaten path but provide great places to watch the salmon run in a more natural setting.

Clear creeks and gravelly rivers

Many river systems host large salmon runs. The Pere Marquette River, Manistee River, Betsie River, and Platte River all offer a good combination of clear, shallow water and public land with forested trails ideal for exploring. Paddling a canoe or kayak on these scenic rivers is always a treat, but late summer and early fall offer the added bonus of salmon viewing.

These rivers are also popular with salmon fishermen during much of the season, so crowding can be an issue and fish may avoid shallow water when fishing pressure is heavy. However, many smaller streams are closed to fishing during the peak of salmon spawning activity. Over 1,400 Michigan streams are classified as Type 1 streams by the Michigan DNR. These small creeks are closed to fishing after September 30 each year, and this makes them ideal for watching salmon spawn. Salmon are less wary when they are not concerned about hooks, and Type 1 streams offer the chance to get up close to salmon as they spawn over gravel beds in clear, shallow water.

To find a likely spot near you, start with streams outlined in green on the map of trout streams in your area. Not all Type 1 streams support salmon runs, but most gravel-bottomed Type 1 streams will host at least small numbers of fish if no downstream dams block their progress upstream. Some of the best places to look are small creeks that flow into larger rivers that are popular with salmon anglers.

Videos and webcams

If you can’t get out on the water, you can still watch Michigan salmon on webcams or YouTube. The Center for Freshwater Research and Education at Lake Superior State Universityhas a webcam in the St. Mary’s River, where viewers can watch Atlantic salmon returning to their stocking site. Another webcam is located in the fish ladder at Berrien Springs. Funding for the purchase and installation of this camera was provided by Evoke kayaks, and a crowdfunding campaign will begin in mid-August 2018, to support operation of the Berrien Springs fishcam.

Michigan Sea Grant also recently released a YouTube video with scenes from the salmon run. The video features underwater footage of salmon in many of the locations mentioned in this article and provides science-based interpretation of salmon behavior during the spawning run.

Lake Sturgeon Reintroduction in the Saginaw Bay Watershed

Event Date: 8/31/2018

Join local, state, and federal partners on Friday, August 31 at 1:30 p.m.
in the first reintroduction of juvenile sturgeon into the Cass River.

Participants may have the opportunity to help with the release. Come be part of this historic event at the Gunzenhausen Street Walkway (parking is adjacent) in Frankenmuth.

Contact

Meaghan Gass
Michigan Sea Grant
Extension Educator
gassmeag@msu.edu
(989) 895-4026 ext. 5

Videos address Lake Michigan fisheries management, prey fish, and mass marking

In case you missed the South Haven Fisheries Workshop, videos recap presentations on the state of Lake Michigan fisheries.

Videos address Lake Michigan fisheries management, prey fish, and mass marking

On April 19 the Southern Lake Michigan Regional Fisheries Workshop was hosted by Michigan Sea Grant in conjunction with South Haven Steelheaders. This annual event draws local South Haven anglers in addition to big lake fishing enthusiasts from around southwest Michigan.

The evening meeting featured a brief update on Sea Grant activities including the Huron-Michigan Diet Study and other citizen scienceprograms, followed by three presentations that are now available on the Michigan Sea Grant YouTube channel. The evening concluded with two presentations on cisco (similar to those offered at the Ludington workshop) and a short discussion on the topic of cisco management options.

The latest video presentations focus on recent developments in Lake Michigan fisheries management and the latest results from forage fish monitoring and mass marking.

Lake Michigan Management Plan

Jay Wesley, Lake Michigan Basin Coordinator with Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), discussed the DNR’s Lake Michigan Management Plan and the public process that accompanied development of the plan, which was approved in January.

Key elements of the plan include:

  • invasive species prevention
  • improvement of habitat connectivity in rivers that feed into Lake Michigan
  • maintaining predator-prey balance

The plan strives to maintain a diverse fishery focused primarily on Chinook salmon, coho salmon, and steelhead with additional opportunities for other species. Marketing the lake’s excellent fishing opportunities with products like the new Roadmap to Lake Michigan Fishing is also a priority. See the video for more details and Jay’s overview of stocking options for 2019 (beginning at 16:17).

Forage Fish Monitoring

Chuck Madenjian, Research Fishery Biologist with U.S. Geological Survey’s Great Lakes Science Center, gave an update on forage fish abundance in Lake Michigan. This is always a topic of interest to anglers because salmon and trout depend on alewife and other forage fish for food. Total forage fish biomass (as estimated from bottom trawls) was the fourth lowest recorded since 1973. Hydroacoustic and midwater trawl sampling showed that the 2017 alewife year-class was relatively weak, but better than the very poor 2013 and 2014 year-classes. See the video for discussion of differences between sampling gears and more details on prey fish distribution around the lake.

Great Lakes Mass Marking Program

Matt Kornis of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service gave an update on the Great Lakes Mass Marking Program. Wild reproduction of Chinook salmon is estimated based on the ratio of stocked to wild Age 1 fish, so 2017 data were used to estimate production of 4.2 million wild Chinook salmon in 2016. This is about average for wild reproduction in recent history, and a big increase from the poor 2013 wild year-class (1.1 million) and 2015 wild year-class (2.2 million). See video for more results from salmon and lake trout tag recovery and diet studies for trout, salmon, and burbot.

The 2018 Southern Lake Michigan Fishery Workshop was a great chance to meet fisheries professionals and learn more about the status of gamefish and preyfish populations. Balancing predators and prey is a perennial topic at these workshops, and all three recorded presentations related to this theme.

Head to Houghton for a Lake Superior Fisheries Workshop on April 30, 2018

Event Date: 4/30/2018

Presentations include updates on several important fish issues, public encouraged to attend and provide input.

flyer describes locations and dates for annual fishery workshops

Michigan Sea Grant workshops are intended to inform the angling community and general public about fish populations and management. This year, in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), our Lake Superior Fisheries Workshop will be held at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Mich. The workshop will feature a variety of talks from the university and management agencies of the MDNR and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The talks will help anglers and the general public understand what research is taking place on the lake and how it is informing fisheries management decisions. There will also be plenty of time for questions and answers allowing anglers to give valuable input.

The workshop will be 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. April 30, 2018, at the Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Technological University. The address 100 Phoenix Drive, Houghton, MI 49931. Parking is free after 4 p.m. at the adjacent lot 31.

Presentations (see agenda) this year will include:

  • Buffalo Reef and Stamp Sands Updates – MDEQ and Keweenaw Bay Indian Community
  • Coaster Brook Trout Population State – MI Tech Great Lakes Research Center
  • Lake Trout Status, Updates, and Isle Royale Populations – MDNR Fisheries Division
  • Ghost Nets – WI Sea Grant
  • Lake Superior Angler Creel Data –  MDNR Fisheries Division
  • MI Tech Great Lakes Research and Facility Tour – Great Lakes Research Center

The Lake Superior Fisheries Workshop is free and open to all interested participants. Registration is requested, but walk-ins are welcome. Register online.

Don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity to learn about what is happening with the Lake Superior Fisheries!

‘Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle’ is a must-see art exhibit for Great Lakes lovers

Paintings reveal the hidden life beneath the beautiful inland seas.

If you love the waters and creatures of the Great Lakes, you won’t want to miss the chance to see the Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle exhibition at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. But don’t delay — the magnificent art exhibit is nearing the end of its three-month run and will only be in town through April 29, 2018. After that Michiganders will have to wait until 2020 for the paintings to return to the state.

The art museum commissioned the artist to research and create five mural-sized paintings depicting the past, present, and future of the Great Lakes. Over the course of four years, Rockman traveled the Great Lakes region, met with scientists and other experts, and created this special display. Included in the exhibit are murals, watercolors, and field drawings.

Detail of a Lake Trout from Forces of Change panel

Rockman’s five mural-sized paintings are filled with information and detail. His paintings have been described as “visual essays” and indeed tell a story which invokes wonder, appreciation, and also apprehension for the future of these critical waters. It’s an important story for all of us to learn and know.

A critical resource

The Great Lakes — Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, and their connecting channels — form the largest surface fresh water system on earth. Environmental stewardship, sustainable economic development, and responsible use of the Great Lakes are crucial components of keeping the lakes and the region vibrant. Rockman’s exhibit challenges viewers to remember how actions and decisions often have ripple effects on the lakes. Several of the large panels can be “read” from left to right, telling the evolutionary story and showing scientific and cultural timelines. Reading these paintings, one can’t help but wonder what’s next for these important waters and be challenged to be a better steward of them for future generations.

For the museum visitor, drawing keys help tell the story and identify each element contained in the large panels. The museum has also created a Great Lakes bingo game to capture the imagination of children and adults, but also impart facts and knowledge. Playing the game encourages real study of the individual elements of the panels.

watercolor of wood duck with sand embelishments

The watercolors and field study drawings are magnificent as well. In the field studies, Rockman has included sand, dirt, and other elements he collected during his travels around the region. For example, his Common Snapping Turtle includes sand from Pictured Rocks, and his rendering of a wood duck includes sand from the Cuyahoga River.

Book a bonus you won’t want to miss

To add to the experience of viewing Rockman’s paintings, be sure to pick up a copy of the exhibition catalogue, which was published by the art museum in association with Michigan State University Press. The book’s essays, descriptions, and beautiful photographs make it a perfect way to enhance — and remember — the experience of standing in front of one of Rockman’s beautiful paintings. The catalogue was written by Dana Friis-Hansen, director of the Grand Rapids Art Museum, with contributions by Jeff Alexander and Thyrza Nichols Goodeve. One suggestion would be to order and read the book first, then see the exhibit. At the very least, grab one at the museum store to study at leisure. The book also includes the detailed keys that explain each element of the large panels.

After leaving Grand Rapids, the exhibit will tour the Great Lakes region. The tour schedule will wrap up back in Michigan in 2020 with its visit to the Flint Institute of Arts. For more information, visit the Grand Rapids Art Museum’s website at www.artmuseumgr.org or contact Visitor Services at (616) 831-1000 or info@artmuseumgr.org.

Exhibition Touring Schedule:

Town Hall on Aquatic Invasive Species

Event Date: 4/26/2018

University of Toledo/NOAA Research Team Host Town Hall on invasive species prevention in the Great Lakes

The public is invited to a town hall meeting 8 p.m. Thursday, April 26 at the WGTE studio, 1270 S. Detroit Ave. in Toledo, OH. 

The town-hall panel of experts includes representatives from the Toledo Zoo, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Maumee Bait and Tackle and Lake Erie Charter Boat Association. 

Rochelle Sturtevant, Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System (GLANSIS) Program Manager is a panelist.

Four years of fishing data from Salmon Ambassadors show trends for wild, stocked salmon catch

New report details results from information volunteer anglers provide.

Four years of fishing data from Salmon Ambassadors show trends for wild, stocked salmon catch.

Anglers are keen observers of the aquatic environment. The Salmon Ambassadors program provides Lake Michigan and Lake Huron anglers with a way to share their observations on wild and stocked salmon. Thanks to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Great Lakes Mass Marking Program, Chinook salmon stocked in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron have been marked with an adipose clip since 2011. This means that anglers can identify stocked fish by looking for a clipped adipose fin. The contribution of wild fish to the catch (% Wild) can then be calculated.

Volunteers with the Salmon Ambassadors program measured each and every Chinook salmon caught during the course of the fishing season and checked for fin clips. At the end of each season, volunteers provided their data to Michigan Sea Grant along with answering a few questions about their season. Since 2014, 81 volunteers have provided a complete data set for at least one season.

A new fact sheet details results from the past four years. Here are a few highlights:

  • Volunteers provided useful data on 8,474 Chinook salmon.
  • Fishing satisfaction has been on the rise since 2015.
  • % Wild was consistently higher in Michigan than in Wisconsin.
  • % Wild increased each month from May to September in northern Michigan ports on Lake Michigan due to the return of wild fish to natal streams.
  • In southern Wisconsin and northern Lake Huron, % Wild was lowest in September due to the return of mature stocked fish to stocking sites.
  • Southern Michigan ports did not seem to benefit from a large run of mature stocked fish in September, as we had originally expected.

In 2013, a 46 percent reduction in Lake Michigan stocking and a corresponding 84 percent drop in natural reproduction (according to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) made for a very weak year-class. This translated into tough fishing in 2015 and 2016, when these fish would have been two and three years old, respectively. Salmon Ambassadors saw big changes in the size structure of their catches as a result. Although anglers felt the pain of tough salmon fishing, the reduction in predation was important for improving predator-prey balance and preventing the collapse of the alewife population.

The Salmon Ambassadors program is a Michigan Sea Grant initiative developed in coordination with Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana Departments of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. This program would not be possible without the effort of dedicated volunteers from organizations including Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen’s Association and Michigan Charter Boat Association. Special thanks go out to Detroit Area Steelheaders, who provided generous donations to support this program.

2018 Fishery Workshops

Event Date: 4/10/2018
End Date: 5/3/2018

Michigan Sea Grant, in partnership with fisheries agencies and stakeholder organizations, hosts public information workshops annually. The workshops focus on current research and information related to the regional status of Great Lakes fisheries. These workshops are open to the public and provide valuable information for anglers, charter captains, resource professionals and other interested stakeholders. 

2018 Workshops

  • Standish
    Tuesday, April 10, 6–9 p.m.
  • Harrison Charter Township
    Thursday, April 12, 6–8:30 p.m.
  • Ubly/Bad Axe
    Thursday, April 19, 6–9 p.m.
  • South Haven
    Thursday, April 19, 2018 7:00-9:20 p.m.
  • Rogers City
    Tuesday, April 24, 6–9 p.m.
  • Houghton
    Monday, April 30, 6–9 p.m.
  • Cedarville
    Thursday, May 3, 6–9 p.m.

Rare fish on rebound in northern Lake Michigan as pros, cons of stocking debated

Anglers and conservationists around Lake Michigan are now weighing in on options for cisco management. New videos and Sea Grant workshops provide a chance to learn more.

To confuse matters, not all cisco (Coregonus artedi) look and act the same. According to a recent monograph, there are different “minor forms” of the cisco species. Body depth and mouth shape vary somewhat from one minor form to the next, but the reasons for this variability are poorly understood. It comes down to a classic question of “nature vs. nurture.”  At this point, we are unsure if different minor forms of cisco are different because of their genetic code (DNA) or because of the influence of their changing environment and ecological niche.

After all, Lake Michigan has changed dramatically since cisco crashed in the late 1950s and early 1960s. At that time, exotic alewife were taking over and native predators (lake trout) had been wiped out by invasive sea lamprey. With no predators to keep them in check, the small, silvery alewife boomed. Another invader, rainbow smelt, was also in the mix. Cisco populations suffered as alewife and rainbow smelt likely competed for food resources and preyed on the tiny pelagic cisco larvae.

Now Lake Michigan cisco are making a comeback. Populations are on the rise in Grand Traverse Bay and surrounding areas. Anglers are catching more cisco every year, and they are beginning to show up in unexpected places. Cisco have been present in seasonally fishable numbers in Charlevoix, Portage Lake, and Manistee in recent years. Occasional catches have been reported even farther south.

These cisco are not behaving like historic Lake Michigan cisco, though. Most notably, their diet now includes other fish such as alewife and round goby. Historically, Lake Michigan cisco mostly ate zooplankton and other small invertebrates. Cisco in present-day Lake Superior and Lake Ontario do the same, but for some reason our recovering Lake Michigan cisco population is different.

This has sparked an active debate among biologists and fishery managers over the past several years, and Great Lakes anglers and conservationists are now beginning to consider the issue, as well. At the recent Ludington Regional Fisheries Workshop hosted by Michigan Sea Grant, Chuck Bronte of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service gave an overview of the issue and management options that are now being considered. Possible options included stocking cisco in Lake Michigan using spawners from Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, or multiple sources. Details on all management options being considered are provided in the video below.

VIDEO:  Opportunities and challenges to cisco restoration in Lake Michigan

Jory Jonas of Michigan DNR also presented, providing an overview of the current status of Lake Michigan cisco. She highlighted research on cisco diet, habitat, and harvest trends along with pointing out how much we have to learn about these fascinating fish.

VIDEO:  Status of recovering cisco populations in Lake Michigan

Anglers and Great Lakes conservationists in the audience at Ludington were given a chance to make statements regarding their thoughts on cisco. In case you missed that opportunity, cisco will be on the agenda again at the free Southern Lake Michigan Regional Fisheries Workshop, held at 7 p.m. April 19, 2018 at the Moose Lodge, 1025 Wells St., (see agenda,no registration necessary).

At the workshop, organizations and individuals will be given the opportunity to read prepared statements expressing their views, suggestions, or questions on cisco before a question and answer session with cisco experts.

The future for cisco in Lake Michigan is looking much brighter than it did a decade ago. Remnant fish are successfully reproducing, researchers are devoting time and energy to enhance our understanding, and managers are carefully weighing whether to take a more active role in restoration. Great Lakes stakeholders are also learning more about how important this fish once was to Lake Michigan’s ecology and fisheries.

The cisco is an amazingly adaptable, and useful, fish. It can feed on zooplankton, bottom-dwelling invertebrates, emerging insects, or small fish. It can be an excellent food source for a variety of predatory gamefish and also grows large enough to interest recreational anglers and commercial fishers. Cisco can be caught by ice fishing, fly casting, jigging, or trolling. Fresh cisco makes a memorable meal when baked, grilled, or sautéed. Commercial fishers often market smoked cisco, and Lake Superior cisco eggs (roe) are exported to Scandinavian countries where they are considered a delicacy.

Above all, the cisco is versatile. It can be many different things in many different circumstances. Attend the workshop on April 19 to learn more about the complex history and ecology of this unique fish.