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.

Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Trails Conference

Event Date: 9/12/2018
End Date: 9/13/2018

Travel to Beaver Island to explore online opportunities for expanding the heritage trail network across Michigan and the Great Lakes region.

By Brandon Schroeder

Poster describing Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Conference to be held on Beaver Island, Sept. 12-13, 2018.

The 2018 Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Trails Conference heads to Beaver Island, Mich., for a heritage experience, and also conversation toward expanding fisheries heritage trail partnerships across Michigan and the Great Lakes region.

Beaver Island Historical Society in collaboration with Central Michigan University Biological StationMichigan Sea GrantMichigan State University Extension, and other network partners will host the annual conference Sept. 12-13, 2018. This conference is a great opportunity for networking, sharing information and resources, and gaining new ideas linking our valuable Great Lakes fisheries with historic preservation, heritage tourism, education, and other community development efforts.

Explore technology and online opportunities

Does your community you have a local fisheries business, maritime museum or historic site, fisheries exhibit or educational materials, or even fisheries events or experiences? Would you like to share your community’s fisheries heritage stories and opportunities in more accessible ways? This year’s conference will serve to unveil a new Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Trail website; and explore technology and online opportunities to better connect local fisheries heritage among Great Lakes-wide audiences. Participants will learn to archive, share and connect work in their local communities, museums, and libraries with others across the state.

Explore fisheries heritage and Great Lakes science

The networking picnic, which kicks off the conference festivities on Sept. 12, 2018, is always a highlight. We will take a tour of Beaver Island Historical Society’s maritime museum, which includes a wealth of fisheries heritage artifacts, images, and stories; along with a visit to the CMU Biological Station. The following day (Sept. 13, 2018) will feature an educational conference with presentations and discussion centered on promoting fisheries heritage in connection with tourism, historic preservation and Great Lakes education goals.

This two-day conference will offer:

  • Conference kick-offand networking reception at 1 p.m. Sept. 12, 2018, with an afternoon picnic (provided) and guided tours of fisheries heritage and Great Lakes science partners and programs on Beaver Island.
  • Business meeting for the Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Consortium (open to all) will be held following dinner on Sep. 12, 2018. Participants are invited to assist in planning for this statewide network. This Great Lakes fisheries network works to benefit local museum programs and the work of fisheries organizations, promote Great Lakes literacy, enhance coastal tourism development opportunities, foster educational connections, and support community development efforts.
  • Conference educational sessions begin 9 a.m. Sept. 13, 2018, in the James Gillingham Academic Center. Learn from panel presenters, and share your own ideas and experiences that can help bring fisheries heritage stories to life. Learn how to use a new Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Trail website and resource in advancing your local work.

Register online to attend

  • Visit the conference website to register online. This educational program is open to all those interested in promoting maritime heritage tourism and Great Lakes stewardship. Please register by Friday, Sept. 7.
  • Registration is $50 ($30 for students) and includes picnic lunch and guided tours of Beaver Island on Sept. 12; and participation in educational conference sessions with lunch provided on Sept. 13.
  • Lodging is provided onsite at the CMU Biological Station for $76 (1 night) or $84 (2 nights) – payment and arrangements for lodging are included this year as part of registration process.
  • Travel to Beaver Island (from Charlevoix) includes ferry and flying options. Beaver Island Ferry runs on Sept. 12th (11:30 a.m. departure) and gets you to the Island on time for conference kick-off (NOTE: ferry returns on Sept. 14th – so those choosing ferry option should plan for an extra day). Flights are also available via Fresh Air Aviation and Island Airways.

For additional information about this educational program contact Brandon Schroeder, Michigan Sea Grant Extension (schroe45@msu.edu, 989-354-9885).

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!

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.

Project F.I.S.H. training helps educators connect youth to fishing

Hands-on activities, games and practice develop fishing skills, encourage conservation.

Participants practice fish printing, or Gyotaku (a traditional Japanese method), before learning how to prepare fish. Photo: Mark Stephens, Michigan State University

Participants practice fish printing, or Gyotaku (a traditional Japanese method), before learning how to prepare fish. Photo: Mark Stephens, Michigan State University

Recently teachers, 4-H program coordinators, and informal educators gathered at Michigan State University to participate in Project F.I.S.H. (Friends Involved in Sportfishing Heritage) training, where they learned hands-on ways to get youth excited about fishing.

Over the course of two days, participants explored the aquatic food web, practiced tackle crafting and casting skills, played games and discussed fishing management and ethics. They also learned how to filet fish and discussed food safety issues through the Eat Safe Fish in Michigan program.

To support efforts following the training, each person received a spincast rod and reel, backyard bass game, tackle box, tackle crafting supplies, bluegill fish print mold, a natural resources stewardship project guide and the Project F.I.S.H. curriculum with instructions for more than 100 fishing education activities. They also receive access to the Bait Shop, an online store that offers educational fishing tools at a discounted rate.

Fishing makes connections

Project F.I.S.H. was launched in 1996 with support from MSUExtension, the Michigan Department of Natural ResourcesGreat Lakes Fishery Trust, and many volunteers. The program has trained more than 2,000 volunteers and through them impacted 200,000-plus youth. Not only do youth learn about sportsfishing, but they also connect to their local waterways and learn how important clean water and a healthy fishery is for our state. One popular event is the annual 4-H Fish Camp, organized by MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant and Project F.I.S.H. held in the Saginaw Bay region.

For those attending the training at MSU, painting with fish forms was a fun – and somewhat messy — way to practice handling rubbery fish before learning how to filet a real one. Participants decorated t-shirts and towels with fish prints, but students have also fish printed no sew t-shirt bags, which is a great way to refuse to single use and protect our Great Lakes from marine debris

Learn more about Project F.I.S.H.

To learn more about upcoming Project F.I.S.H opportunities, visit the events page or contact Mark Stephens, Project F.I.S.H. director, at steph143@msu.edu or (517) 432-2700. Project F.I.S.H. is currently supported by financial donations. If you would like to assist the program financially, please donate online at www.projectfish.org.

Nigerian fish farmers are turning to production of smoked fish to prevent economic losses

Attending training in Michigan helps representatives develop plans for smoked fish processing to deal with food safety hazards unique to the product.

Representatives from Nigeria attended the Seafood HACCP course in Michigan to learn how to deal with food safety hazards in smoked fish production. Photo: Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

Representatives from Nigeria attended the Seafood HACCP course in Michigan to learn how to deal with food safety hazards in smoked fish production. Photo: Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

A Seafood Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) Training Course coordinated by Michigan Sea GrantMichigan State University Extension, and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission was recently conducted at Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. Three of those attending traveled from Nigeria to learn how to develop HACCP plans for smoked fish processing to deal with food safety hazards unique to this product. Two of them represented the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) that regulates processed and semi-processed food. The need for value-added and preservation of fish in Nigeria is in dire need because many fish farmers are faced with losses due to poor infrastructure.

Fish farming potential

The fish production sector of Nigeria’s economy is in a developmental phase and it currently contributes about 6 percent to the nation’s economy. Nigeria depends on imported fish to meet domestic demand. Currently almost 2 billion pounds of fish is produced locally while the annual demand for fish is around 6 billion pounds. This leads to a shortfall of more than 4 billion pounds that must be imported. However, recent developments in the agricultural sector of the economy has brought to light the potential of domestic fish farming. This has led to the continued rise in the production of freshwater fish with a focus on catfish and tilapia.

With the increase in fish production in Nigeria because of fish farming the need for fish preservation, including both dried and wet smoked, is becoming an urgent alternative for fish farmers to prevent economic losses. Most of the smoked fish in the open markets are currently being processed using traditional methods which are not regulated in any form. The commercial production, labeling, and marketing of smoked fish continues to evolve there.

Planning for the future

In preparation for future challenges NAFDAC embarked on capacity building for effective regulation and planning for the need to export smoke fish. The directorate of Veterinary Medicine and Allied Products (VMAP) participated in the Seafood HACCP course two years ago to acquire information on recent developments in Seafood HACCP applications to fish smoking, to understand the global prerequisite in fish preservation especially related fish smoking, and to develop detailed training from the training materials and knowledge acquired at the course. As a result they are committed to sending more people from Nigeria to Michigan for Seafood HACCP training.

The Seafood HACCP training has added value to the regulatory documents being developed for fish smoking on a commercial level. The Nigerian national agency looks forward to future participation in such training as a regulatory body and recommending the same for major stakeholders in Nigeria.