Michigan Sea Grant project looks at cisco restoration in Lake Michigan

How can cisco restoration efforts be tailored to fit the needs of Lake Michigan stakeholder groups?

A school of cisco swim in Lake Superior near Isle Royale National Park. Photo: Ron Kinnunen | Michigan Sea Grant

A school of cisco swim in Lake Superior near Isle Royale National Park. Photo: Ron Kinnunen | Michigan Sea Grant

The alewife supported the salmon fishery in the Great Lakes but had negative qualities such as high levels of thiaminase which interferes with reproduction of trout and salmon. The alewife also is a predator on many of our native larval fish and thus affects recruitment of species such as lake trout and walleye. The cisco, which is a native species, does not share these negative attributes of the alewife.

In recent years the alewife population has declined in lakes Huron and Michigan which has led to a window where the native cisco might recover in areas where there are remnant populations or be reintroduced into areas where it no longer exists. Many stakeholders have promoted the reintroduction of cisco. Though many stakeholder groups are interested in restoring cisco, they disagree on the best approach. Some advocate helping remnant populations recover, while others recommend stocking Lake Michigan with young cisco from Lake Michigan’s remnant population or from elsewhere in the Great Lakes region. Michigan Sea Grant has an integrated assessment project underway on Cisco Restoration in Lake Michigan (PDF). During an integrated assessment project researchers work closely with stakeholders to examine an issue from many perspectives, identify challenges, and evaluate feasible solutions.

If stocking of cisco is to occur some issues that need to be resolved are the development of hatchery facilities that can produce large numbers of cisco and the genetic lines that should be used in this rehabilitation effort. Restoration through hatchery production can result in loss of genetic variability because eggs and milt often are taken from a relatively small number of individuals that may not be a good representation of the gene pool of the entire population. Ecological conditions in the lakes have changed drastically and there is concern whether cisco could survive once stocked.

As part of the Michigan Sea Grant project a research team led by Sara Alderstein, an associate research scientist at the University of Michigan, will use existing data and guided workshops and discussions to help stakeholders create a path for cisco restoration in Lake Michigan. Michigan Sea Grant Extension recently presented information on this project at the Lake Michigan Technical Committee meeting and at the Annual Michigan Fish Producers Association Conference. A workshop is planned this summer during the Lake Michigan Technical Committee. Through the workshops, the project team will provide a framework for helping managers and the fishing community advance a preferred option for Lake Michigan cisco restoration.

Salmon Ambassador volunteers had mixed success for Chinook salmon in 2016 on Lake Michigan

Research shows wild salmon made up the majority of the catch in most regions.

Results from around Lake Michigan show that wild fish make up the majority of the catch, especially in Michigan ports near high-quality tributaries like the Manistee River and Pere Marquette River.

Results from around Lake Michigan show that wild fish make up the majority of the catch, especially in Michigan ports near high-quality tributaries like the Manistee River and Pere Marquette River.

The Salmon Ambassadors program is an angler science project led by Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension, and funded in part by Detroit Area Steelheaders. Anglers who volunteer for the program share information on their season’s catch with one another—and with biologists. Since 2014, anglers around Lake Michigan and northern Lake Huron have been collecting data on stocked and wild Chinook salmon.

Volunteers measure the length of each Chinook salmon caught over the course of the fishing season and look for a clipped adipose fin that indicates a stocked fish. At the end of the season, volunteers complete a short survey and return their data sheets. Results from 2016 were released this week and are now available as fact sheets posted on the Salmon Ambassadors web page.

Increased angler satisfaction in Wisconsin

Overall angler satisfaction among volunteers increased in 2016. On a scale of one to five (five being the highest), average satisfaction with fishing experiences increased from 2.4 in 2015 to 3.1 in 2016. While this was encouraging, most of the increase was due to improvements in fishing on the west side of Lake Michigan, and in Wisconsin in particular.

In Wisconsin waters, angler satisfaction increased from 2.5 in 2015 to 4.2 in 2016. This coincided with big increases in catches of Chinook salmon, coho salmon, brown trout, and steelhead reported by Wisconsin DNR (lake trout catch decreased in Wisconsin waters in 2016).

In Michigan, anglers did not fare so well – perhaps in part due to weather patterns that kept cool water along the Wisconsin shore for much of the summer. Angler satisfaction for Salmon Ambassadors fishing Michigan waters of Lake Michigan remained relatively low (2.4 in 2015; 2.5 in 2016).

Lake Huron anglers fared better, with volunteers in the northern part of the lake reporting that angler satisfaction increased from 2.3 in 2015 to 4.6 in 2016. The number of fish caught by Lake Huron volunteers also increased dramatically, from only 35 Chinook salmon in 2015 to 159 in 2016.

Wild salmon still dominate catches, particularly in Michigan

Since the lakewide program began in 2014, wild Chinook salmon have outnumbered stocked in all areas of Lake Michigan. In Michigan waters, the percent wild has consistently been highest at ports such as Manistee and Ludington, which are located at the mouths of rivers that offer excellent spawning habitat to migrating salmon.

Results from Michigan waters in 2016 found:

  • 83% wild in Manistee (including Onekema)
  • 86% wild in the Ludington area (including Pentwater)
  • 68% wild in the Grand Haven area (Whitehall to Saugatuck)
  • 67% wild in southwest Michigan (South Haven to St. Joseph)

In Wisconsin, stocked fish made up a slightly larger portion of the catch. This is probably due to a combination of factors including the lack of good spawning rivers in Wisconsin, higher number of stocked Chinook salmon in Wisconsin waters, and higher survival rate for Chinooks stocked in Wisconsin waters.

Results from Wisconsin waters in 2016 found:

  • 59% wild in Door Peninsula (including Kewaunee to Washington Island)
  • 60% wild in southern Wisconsin (including all ports form Sheboygan south to the state line)

Volunteers in Illinois and Indiana found that 70% of Chinook salmon in their catches were wild, while those fishing northern Lake Huron from the Mackinaw Straits to Rogers City found that only 33% of their catch was wild. This is likely due to the good number of mature ‘kings’ being caught in Rogers City as they returned to the Swan River in late summer.

Narrow margin of support for Lake Michigan stocking cuts

A proposal to reduce Chinook salmon in Lake Michigan was announced in June 2016. While the vast majority of anglers were supportive the 2013 stocking cut, the 2016 proposal was met with mixed reactions. Opponents of the proposed 62% Chinook salmon stocking reduction called for additional cuts to lake trout stocking.

Salmon Ambassadors were asked about their support for, or opposition to, a revised proposal that included a 21% reduction to lake trout stocking and a 50% reduction to Chinook salmon stocking. Volunteers expressed strong opinions on both sides of the issue, and many offered insightful comments regarding the state of the fishery and the need to adjust to a rapidly-changing ecosystem.

All in all, 51% of volunteers who responded to the survey (N=55) supported the revised stocking proposal. For Wisconsin and Michigan anglers, state of residence did not have a significant effect on support or opposition. Volunteers from Wisconsin and Michigan demonstrated similarly high knowledge of Great Lakes fisheries biology, and anglers from both states were also similar in their moderate level of trust in the ability of science to reflect actual conditions in Lake Michigan.

Volunteers trusted “percent wild” calculations more than other fisheries statistics, perhaps because of their own involvement in collecting this data. On a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being the highest), volunteers rated their trust in “percent wild” at 4.0 as opposed to 3.5 for general trust in fisheries science and 3.0 for trust in estimates of alewife biomass. Most anglers agreed or strongly agreed that participation in Salmon Ambassadors made them more aware of what is going on in the Lake Michigan fishery (average 4.7 on the five-point scale).

Due to the success of this program and the support of anglers, fishing clubs, and natural resource agencies the Salmon Ambassadors program will be expanded and continued in 2017. See the MSUE article “Fishing for Answers” for more details.

CISMAs work together to manage invasive species

Homeowners can seek help from Michigan’s 17 Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas.

by Kip Cronk

Michigan’s Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (2016) are shown. There are 17 CISMAs in the state.

Michigan’s Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (2016) are shown. There are 17 CISMAs in the state.

Don’t feel alone in the battle against invasive species. In Michigan, there are 17 Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMAs) that will assist private landowners with invasive species control. You can think of CISMAs as regional invasive species organizations – sort of a clearinghouse of expertise that brings managers together towards a common management goal. “Partner organizations, big and small, are what allow a CISMA to thrive,” said Katie Grzesiak of the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network. “Many partners have supported a plethora of successful projects, from controlling invasive phragmites in Grand Traverse Bay to creating the ground-breaking Go Beyond Beauty program that encourages the voluntary removal of invasive species from ornamental landscapes.”

If you are dealing with an invasive species such as invasive phragmites, Japanese knotweed, or flowering rush, it can be overwhelming. Your local CISMA can assist you with technical assistance, identification, training, treatment, monitoring and a partnership. Each CISMA has its own priority species as there are too many invasive species in Michigan for each CISMA to manage them all. The most common invasive species being addressed by CISMAs at this time are invasive phragmites, Japanese knotweed and garlic mustard. “CISMAs are an excellent source of assistance for local landowners. They will help with a range of invasive species activities –—from teaching landowners simple steps for prevention, to helping with identification of unknown plants, to treatment and control,” said Christina Baugher of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “I am continually impressed by the work of Michigan’s CISMAs. As a state, we would not be where we are in the fight against invasives without them.”

If you are a private landowner battling invasive species, you should contact your local CISMA early to find out what their priority species are and what assistance they offer. Even if you have a species that is not one of their priorities, they most likely will be able to offer technical assistance through brochures and websites to help manage that specific species. Many CISMAs hire a summer Strike Team that manages their priority invasive species through identification, treatment and monitoring. At this time, some of the CISMAs do not charge for any of their services, whereas others have a cost share program. “The Saginaw Bay CISMA is proud to provide landowners with free treatment of their small infestations of invasives such as phragmites and Japanese knotweed. Without these treatments, the infestations are likely to spread and become a larger detriment to not only the initial landowner, but to their surrounding neighbors,” said Fallon Januska, coordinator of the Saginaw Bay CISMA.

The battle against invasive species can be difficult, but it is good to know that Michigan has so many organizations willing and able to assist private landowners and build partnerships with local organizations. It is recommended you manage invasive species on your property when they are first discovered. The larger the infestation, the more difficult they are to control. Take time today to contact your local CISMA. Take time today to volunteer with your local CISMA. Take time today to spread the word about your local CISMA. The Michigan Invasive Species Coalition has a list of all of the Michigan CISMAs and contact information on their website.

Request for Proposals: Great Lakes Clean Marina Network

Event Date: 4/17/2017

Michigan Sea Grant, as co-coordinator of the Great Lakes Clean Marina Network, is soliciting proposals for projects supporting Great Lakes Clean Marina Programs in 2017. Michigan Sea Grant anticipates awarding two grants with $5,000 as the maximum annual funding allowance per grant. The projects will run for up to one year, to be completed by April 30, 2018.

This request for proposals is open to all eight Great Lakes states of the Great Lakes Clean Marina Network (IL, IN, MI, MN, NY, OH, PA, WI). The network’s mission is to ensure that quality of life, economic prosperity, and environmental quality are achieved in the Great Lakes region by increasing participation in Clean Marina efforts.

This request for proposals focuses on two categories: 1) projects to expand the territory for Clean Marina certification within the Great Lakes Basin, or 2) projects that evaluate and/or support Clean Marina Program sustainability.

See: Funding Opportunities

2017 Fisheries Workshops Series

Event Date: 4/4/2017
End Date: 5/24/2017

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.

If you’re interested in attending a workshop, please register using the information below so the organizers can plan accordingly.

Workshop Schedule

Port Huron
Tuesday, April 4
6–9 p.m.
Charles A. Hammond American Legion Hall, 1026 6th Street, Port Huron, MI 48060
Register Online

Bay City
Wednesday, April 12
6–9 p.m.
Bangor Township Hall, 3921 Wheeler Rd, Bay City, MI 48706
Register Online

Harrison Township
Thursday, April 13
6–9 p.m.
Sportsman’s Direct, 38989 Jefferson Ave, Harrison Township, MI 48045

South Haven 
Thursday, April 20, 2017
7–9:30 p.m.
South Haven Moose Lodge, 1025 Wells St., South Haven, MI 49090

Wednesday, April 26
6–9 p.m.
American Legion Oscoda, 349 S. State Street, Oscoda, MI 48750
Register Online

Thursday, April 27
6–9 p.m.
Clark Township Community Center, 133 E. M-134, Cedarville, MI 49719
Register Online

Wednesday, May 24
6–9 p.m.
Chocolay Township Hall, 5010 US-41, Harvey, MI 49855
Register Online

National Invasive Species Awareness Week series highlights threats Michigan faces

Damage caused by invasive plants alone costs the U.S. estimated at $34.7 billion a year.

The claws of the red swamp crayfish have bright red spiky bumps. Photo: Mike Murphy

The claws of the red swamp crayfish have bright red spiky bumps. Photo: Mike Murphy

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) defines invasive species as non-native, rapidly reproducing species which threaten the integrity of natural areas. Once established in an area, they can have devastating effects. They often out-compete native species for limited resources including food and habitat, alter and damage existing habitat, displace native species, and in some cases prey directly upon native species. Invasive species have been identified as serious threats to global and local biodiversity.

According to the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA), it has been estimated the damage caused by invasive plants alone costs the U.S. an estimated $34.7 billion a year. Despite the profound impacts of invasive species, WSSA believes the key to being able to manage invasives and prevent their spread is awareness.

February 27 to March 3, 2017, is National Invasive Species Awareness Week and the goal is to draw attention to invasive species and what individuals can do to stop the spread and introduction of them. The program’s website lists several events around the country related to invasive species, including meetings in Washington, D.C.

To help bring local awareness to invasive species, Michigan State University Extension  and Michigan Sea Grant will feature an article on a terrestrial or aquatic invasive species each day that have invaded, or pose a potential threat to invade Michigan’s environment.

Additional information about invasive species can be found at the Extension website.

Read the complete 2017 Invasive Species Series:

Seminar: Fish Spawning Reef Planning Techniques

Event Date: 5/15/2017


This seminar will be held in conjunction with the International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) 2017 conference in Detroit. You do not need to register for IAGLR to participate.

A number of factors, including construction of shipping channels, land use changes and dams, have degraded rocky fish spawning habitat or made it inaccessible to native, migratory fish. One method for compensating for spawning habitat losses is to construct fish spawning reefs, essentially beds of loose rock placed on the river bottom that provide adequate protection and flow through the rocks for egg incubation. Though simple in concept, reef projects need to be carefully sited and designed to avoid accumulating sediment, attract desired fish and support young fish through the critical early life stages.

This team- taught seminar will share techniques developed through eight reef projects established in the St. Clair and Detroit River System over the past fifteen years. Specific topics will include: site assessment and selection, hydrodynamics and sedimentation concerns, reef design and construction strategies and monitoring of early life stages of fish. In the afternoon, participants will have a choice of two activities, either exploring monitoring equipment or discussing permitting, funding and team coordination issues with agency leaders. This interactive seminar is open to all types of restoration practitioners, including professional engineers, project managers, researchers and anyone hoping to champion, design or monitor a constructed spawning reef in Great Lakes nearshore areas, connecting channels or larger rivers.

Date: Monday, May 15, 2017
Time: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Location: IAGLR’s Great Lakes Research Conference, Cobo Center Room 258, 1 Washington Blvd, Detroit, Michigan
Continuing Education: Seminar participants will receive a certificate showing they completed 7 hours of continuing education suitable for professional license renewals.
Cost: $75 for professionals, $30 for students 
Final registration deadline: 5:00 p.m., May 5, 2017
Cancellation: Registrants who cancel on or before April 24 will receive full refunds. No refunds will be issued for cancellations after May 5.

For professionals ($75):

For students ($30):

For questions, contact:
Lynn Vaccaro
University of Michigan Water Center
(734) 763-0056

Quiet Water Symposium

Event Date: 3/4/2017


Mark your calendar and make plans to attend the 22nd Annual Quiet Water Symposium, which promotes non-motorized outdoor recreation.  Visit our Michigan Sea Grant booth and try your luck at winning a prize!

Last year’s Symposium featured over 200 exhibits, speakers and demonstrations. This year will feature presentations by noted travel writers, Jim DuFresne, Kevin Callan, Hap Wilson and the dean of outdoor writers, Cliff Jacobson.

Campers, hikers, cyclists, sailors, anglers, and of course paddle sport enthusiasts will all find something interesting at the symposium.

We hope to see you there!

When: Saturday, March 4, 2017
Where: Michigan State University Pavilion, 4301 Farm Lane, East Lansing, MI
Time: 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM
Cost: Adults $10.00, Students with I/D $5.00, under 12 free.


Great Lakes Fisheries Educational Session

Event Date: 1/28/2017

A Great Lakes Fisheries Educational Session will be held during the Michigan Fish Producers Association Annual Conference on Saturday January 28, 2017, at the Park Place Hotel in Traverse City, Michigan.

The Great Lakes Fisheries Session will run from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. There is no registration fee for this event. Topics will range from lake levels to cisco restoration, local seafood suppliers, cormorant management, and more. See the agenda for full details.

If you’re interested in attending or have questions, get in touch with Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator Ron Kinnunen at (906) 226-3687 or kinnune1@msu.edu.

Great Lakes Day

Event Date: 3/7/2017

March 7, 2017

9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center auditorium, East Lansing, MI

On March 7, this year’s Great Lakes conference, held at Michigan State University during Agriculture and Natural Resources Week, will focus on the theme “The Great Lakes: Moving Michigan Forward.”

Keynote addresses will be given by Dr. Joan Rose, recipient of the 2016 Stockholm Water Prize, speaking on global public health issues, and Jon Allan, director of the Office of the Great Lakes, presenting the next steps in Michigan’s Water Strategy.

Other speakers will focus on issues relating to green infrastructure, agriculture, rip currents, the use of drones, acoustic telemetry and “Dark Skies.”

To register on the web or to find updates to the agenda, visit www.iwr.msu.edu/events/ANRWeek.

To register by phone, call (517) 353-3742.