Downriver Linked Greenways celebrates new opportunities with trail users, communities and partners.
By Mary Bohling
From left, Tiffany Van DeHey, owner Riverside Kayak Connection; Congresswoman Debbie Dingell; and Richard Marsh, city manager River Rouge show off some of the new sign kiosks that will be installed in 11 locations along the Downriver Linked Greenways. Photo credit: Friends of the Detroit River
Recently trail enthusiasts gathered in Flat Rock, Mich., for a Downriver Linked Greenways(DLG) celebration. The “Trail Triumphs” celebration in January 2019, was a time to share the exciting things that are happening in the growing network of land and water trails, and to celebrate the Downriver region’s positive trail momentum. Co-chaired by Michigan Sea Grant and Riverside Kayak Connection, Downriver Linked Greenways in a nonprofit organization facilitating trail development for 21 communities in southern Wayne County. The great work that has taken place toward building a network of blueways and greenways, has spawned new opportunities, initiatives, collaborations and partnerships that will further the vision of establishing the Downriver area as a tourist destination in Southeastern Michigan.
Highlights of the festivities included remarks from Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, the debut of a video of the healthy benefits of trails and the unveiling of new DLG kiosks, road decals, and confidence markers that will be placed along the DLG trail.
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
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).
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.
What do shipwrecks, wetlands, fisheries, research and birds all have in common? Those are just some of the topics featured on board these fun, interesting, and educational boat trips.
By Steve Stewart
Got fish? You will if you join one of our fisheries-themed cruises this summer! Photo: Steve Stewart, Michigan Sea Grant
The 2018 season of educational Summer Discovery Cruises begins June 14 as the education vessel Clinton sets sail from Lake Erie Metropark for the upper reaches of the Detroit River. This first cruise is a special 5-hour “Journey through the Straits” cruise, sailing north from Lake Erie through the entire length of the Detroit River. Starting within the boundary of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, we’ll pass Grosse Ile and Fighting Island, get a close look at the steel industry in River Rouge, see Historic Fort Wayne, cruise under the Ambassador Bridge, view Detroit’s incredible downtown waterfront up close, and pass to the west of Belle Isle before docking.
Following the Journey through the Straits, the Clinton will sail on Lake St. Clair for two weeks in late June and July, operating out of the Lake St. Clair Metropark marina. The second half of the summer is spent on Lake Erie and the lower Detroit River.
Join us on the water for our 17th year of learning about the magnificent Great Lakes! There are more than 20 cruise themes to choose from this summer. Topics range from lighthouses, wildlife, shipwrecks, bootleggers and history, to fisheries, ecology, wetlands, habitat restoration and weather.
A new cruise added this year coincides with Macomb County’s bicentennial. This cruise – “200 Years Around Lake St. Clair” – will look back at what life was like around Lake St. Clair long ago. From the first people of the region to the European fur traders, explorers, and settlers, participants will learn how the natural history of Lake St. Clair influenced the human history and use of this magnificent lake.
The 2018 Summer Discovery Cruises season begins June 14, with the final cruise offered Sept. 15. Registration is now open for both individuals (ages six and above) and for groups. For more information or to register, go to www.discoverycruises.org.
How might you keep current on all these issues and topics? The 2018 Lake Huron Regional Fisheries workshop series offers an educational opportunity to keep current on the status and health, trends and fishing opportunities on Lake Huron. These annual educational workshops also offer opportunity to directly learn and ask questions with a diversity of university and agency scientists and experts who work on Lake Huron fisheries.
Workshops will include information and status updates on topics such as fish populations and angler catch data, forage or prey fish surveys, offshore fisheries and native lake trout, and the status of Saginaw Bay yellow perch and walleye. In addition there will be information shared on fisheries management activities, citizen science opportunities for anglers, and a variety of other Lake Huron topics of local interest. These workshops provide valuable information for anglers, charter captains, resource professionals, and interested community members.
Workshops are free and open to the public. Locations and dates include:
Standish (Saginaw Bay): April 10, 2018, (Tuesday, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.) at Saganing Tribal Center, 5447 Sturman Rd., Standish, MI 48658.
Ubly/Bad Axe: April 19, 2018, (Thursday, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.) at Ubly Fox Hunter’s Club, 2351 Ubly Rd., Bad Axe, MI 48413.
Rogers City: April 24, 2014, (Tuesday, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.) at Rogers City Area Seniors and Community Center, 131 Superior St., Rogers City, MI 49779.
Cedarville: May 3, 2018, (Thursday, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.) at Clark Township Community Center, 133 E. M-134, Cedarville, MI 49719.
For program information or questions, contact Brandon Schroeder, Michigan Sea Grant by email or at (989) 354-9885. Workshop details for these and other Great Lakes fisheries workshops are also available online the Michigan Sea Grant website.
National Invasive Species Awareness Week, Part 5: More than 5,000 red swamp crayfish have been removed, but battle continues.
By Mary Bohling
Native to the southern Mississippi basin and Gulf Coast, red swamp crayfish have now been found in other parts of the U.S. including locations in the Great Lakes. Photo credit: USGS
National Invasive Species Awareness Week this year is Feb. 26 to March 2, 2018. The goal is to draw attention to invasive species and what individuals can do to stop the spread and introduction of them. This effort is sponsored by a diverse set of partners from across the country. To increase awareness of Michigan’s invasive species, Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant are publishing a series of articles featuring resources and programs in our state working on invasive species issues.
Today’s article brings an update on the invasive red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii). Prior to July 14, 2017, no live red swamp crayfish had been found in Michigan although carcasses were found at a popular fishing site on the Grand River and Lake Macatawa in 2013 and 2015, respectively. However, in July 2017 red swamp crayfish were confirmed living in large numbers in a storm water retention pond in Oakland County as well as in Sunset Lake in Kalamazoo County.
According to the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) this invasive crustacean can be up to 5 inches long including claws, although the Michigan Department of Natural Resources found individuals nearly 9 inches in 2017. Red swamp crayfish have a dark red body, claws with spiky, bright red bumps and a black wedge-shaped stripe on their underside.
Spreading through the U.S.
The red swamp crayfish is native to the Mississippi River drainage and the Gulf Coast and likely came to the Great Lakes by anglers who bought live crayfish intended for food and used it as bait or through the aquaculture industry. The Lake Erie introduction may have been intentionally released in an effort to establish populations that could then be harvested for consumption.In addition to its native range in the southern U.S., invasive populations of red swamp crayfish are now found scattered across over two dozen states.
In 2013, Michigan began prohibiting the sale of live red swamp crayfish for bait but they were still allowed for food. In 2015, Michigan law changed to prohibit the possession of all live red swamp crayfish regardless of intended purpose. Despite the regulatory actions taken, the first known establishments of red swamp crayfish in Michigan were reported in 2017. These infestations represent significant threats to Michigan’s aquatic systems. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division has developed a red swamp crayfish response plan which includes a monitoring strategy to determine the geographical distribution of infestations, working to limit new introductions, and conducting experiments to determine and implement effective chemical controls. To date, MDNR has removed over 5,000 individual crayfish.
According to MISIN, red swamp crayfish can be a host for parasites and diseases and can carry crayfish fungus plague. Once they become established, they can negatively impact an ecosystem due to its diet, which includes plants, insects, snails, fish and amphibians. It also aggressively competes for food and habitat with native crayfish and other species. This species of crayfish also digs burrows that can jeopardize shoreline stability and lead to erosion issues.
Help stop the spread
You can prevent the spread of red swamp crayfish by:
helping to educate others about identifying and preventing their spread.
Practicing the Clean, Drain and Dry method for watercraft prior to moving them between lakes. See Video
Disposing of unwanted fishing bait and aquarium animals in the trash.
Read the entire 2018 National Invasive Species Awareness Week series
National Invasive Species Awareness Week, Part 4: Michigan Sea Grant receives funding to start program for paddlers.
By Mary Bohling
The Paddling Detection, Reporting and Public Awareness Program will be conducted statewide on and around 12 established Michigan water trails. Map Credit: Land Information Access Association
National Invasive Species Week 2018 is Feb. 26 to March 2. Invasive species are plants, animals, and other organisms that are not traditionally found in a given location (in this case the Great Lakes) AND they have a negative impact of some kind, whether ecological, economic, social, and/or a public health threat. To increase awareness of Michigan’s invasive species, Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant are publishing a series of articles featuring resources and programs in our state working on invasive species issues.
Today’s article features the “Michigan Invasive Species Paddling Detection, Reporting and Public Awareness Program” a new initiative funded by the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program.
Fastest-growing outdoor activity
According to recent studies by the Outdoor Industry Association, paddlesports are among the fastest-growing outdoor activities in the United States, and that enthusiasm is reflected in a rapidly developing system of water trails all over Michigan. Along with fantastic recreational opportunities, the increased availability and use of water trails also brings challenges including concerns over the possibility of these activities becoming a more prevalent vector for the introduction or spread of invasive species.
Invasive species can be hitchikers
Many aquatic invasive species (AIS) are spread through movement of boats between impacted areas and non-impacted areas. Much has been done in Michigan to educate motorized boaters on how to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species by properly cleaning, draining and drying motorized boats. A network of volunteer inspectors also exists for motorized boat launch locations throughout the state. However, less effort has been put into non-motorized boater education and outreach. While some paddlers may encounter these volunteer inspectors, these interactions are serendipitous. This new program will be a targeted education and outreach campaign for paddlers to “adopt” stretches of a water trail to detect and report aquatic invasive species, helping to fill the current void in paddler engagement and helping to prevent the introduction and/or slow the spread of invasive species from recreational paddling activities.
Water trail users are key
The new AIS Paddling Stewardship Program aims to help water trail users identify and map invasive species along sections of at least 12 water trails throughout Michigan. It will also offer education on best practices for preventing the introduction or spread of invasive species through paddlesport activities.
By working directly with paddling groups and other volunteers, and by using proven and established campaigns and tools such as the Clean Boats, Clean Waters program; Clean. Drain. Dry.; Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!; and the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) smartphone app, we can provide new opportunities to assist in monitoring and reporting the presence of invasive species in areas that may otherwise go unmonitored. In addition, through educational signage, videos and a volunteer-based public awareness program, we can provide greater awareness about how to limit the introduction and spread of invasive species among paddlers as well as non-paddlers.
Program materials, training resources and volunteer tool kits will be developed in 2018 and paddling workshops will be offered beginning in the spring of 2019.
Those interested in enrolling in the 2019 training workshops should send their name and city of residence to Mary Bohling at firstname.lastname@example.org who will notify them when workshops in their area are scheduled.
Read the entire 2018 National Invasive Species Awareness Week series
The annual Great Lakes Conference held on March 6 will investigate the opportunities and challenges our Great Lakes face. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant
The Great Lakes are one of Michigan’s most valuable resources, providing countless benefits in the present and offering tremendous opportunities for the future. Learn more about the opportunities and also the challenges facing the lakes during the annual Great Lakes Conference at Michigan State University.
The 28thGreat Lakes Conference is an important part of MSU’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Week. The conference will be presented 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 6, 2018, at the MSU Kellogg Center auditorium on the East Lansing campus. The conference is sponsored by the MSU Institute of Water Research, MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife; Michigan Sea Grant; and the Office of the Great Lakes.
This year the Great Lakes Conference will focus on topics including beach monitoring, autonomous vehicles used in research, ice cover, Harmful Algal Blooms (HABS), and more:
The Geomorphology and Evolution of Coastal Dunes along Lake Michigan – Dr.Alan F. Arbogast, Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences, Michigan State University, East Lansing.
Forecasting Harmful Algal Blooms to Help Lake Erie Stakeholders – Devin Gill, Outreach Specialist, Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, Ann Arbor.
Registration is open
The conference is open to the public. Registration is $10 through March 1; $12 at the door (students are free). If you are a K-12 or informal educator, you may be eligible to attend the Educator Luncheon and receive a stipend in support of your participation. Educators may contact Steve Stewart via email at email@example.com.
Register online and don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about our present Great Lakes and planning for the future.
U.S., Canada have each preserved lakeshores and parks of these beautiful natural resources.
By Steve Stewart
Voyageurs National Park Photo courtesy NPS
Are you someone who loves to travel? If so, you have probably visited at least one or two of our National Parks. And you probably have a list of additional parks you’d like to visit when times allows. The good news for those of us in the Great Lakes region is that we have many National Parks at our doorstep – or more appropriately, shoreline – than in many other parts of North America.
On the American side of the Great Lakes, the National Park Service has set aside special areas, called units in the National Park System, to preserve “the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.” These include three National Parks and four National Seashores. On the Canadian side, Parks Canada has done much the same, designating six National Parks, one National Marine Park, and one National Marine Conservation Area.
In the coming months we’ll be getting to know the varied parks on both sides of the border through a series of articles looking at their diverse natures and locations. From the Isle Royale and Voyageurs National Parks in the U.S., to the Georgian Bay Islands and Bruce Peninsula National Parks in Canada, we’ll see just how special these areas are and how they highlight some of the most unique features of the Great Lakes. Following are a couple of teasers to spark your interest in some of the articles ahead.
Do you know which parks can be found in the world’s largest freshwater archipelago? Or which park is at the southernmost point of the Canadian mainland? Do you know which Great Lakes park is the only U.S. national park to completely close during the winter? To get the answers to these questions and discover a host of fascinating facts about our Great Lakes national parks, look for the upcoming articles in this series.
The longest running citizen science project in the world celebrates its 118th year.
By Elliot Nelson
Birders are all bundled up at Tahquamenon Falls in the winter. Photo: Elliot Nelson | Michigan Sea Grant
In 1900, an ornithologist (aka bird scientist) named Frank Chapman proposed a new holiday tradition, to count birds across the entire country. Conservation was in its early days, and Chapman was concerned about the decline in many of the bird species he loved. Frank Chapman’s idea was to collect data across the country on what birds were present and in what numbers to provide information on how bird populations were changing. Over the years this count, became known as the Christmas Bird Count. The count, which is organized by the National Audubon Society, has gained in popularity. In 1900, there were 24 counts from California to New York. Now there are over 2,500 counts ranging from Antarctica to Brazil to the farthest reaches of Alaska each year.
Fun and serious science
While counting the birds is a fun holiday tradition, the data collected is serious business. The data stored by the National Audubon Society is being used by ornithologists around the world for important research. The information collected in the counts can be used to track how bird populations are changing over time and how habitat changes can effect bird populations.
What is particularly unique about the Christmas Bird Counts is that they are run by volunteers with data collected by ordinary citizens from across the country. Anyone can volunteer to assist a particular count regardless of skill level.
Volunteers still needed
In Michigan there are around 65 counts that take place. Each count is organized on the local level by passionate volunteers or organizations such as Michigan Audubon, The Nature Conservancy and Michigan Sea Grant/Michigan State University Extension.
Each count is held on one day between December 14 and January 5. Many surveys take place during the weekend to attract the most participants and many counts are still looking for volunteers. If you are interested in participating in the Christmas Bird Count you can check out this interactive map to find the count closes to you. You can also contact the Michigan Audubon or one of their local chapters and they can help point you towards a count close to you. For more information on participating in a count read this Michigan Audubon article.
The holidays are a great time of year to get out and experience the outdoors. Why not contribute to science while you are at it?
Reporting to Canadian Customs no longer necessary under certain conditions.
By Mary Bohling
Things are about to get easier for American boaters and anglers who venture into Canadian waters thanks to a new border enforcement law stemming from a bill drafted by Canadian Sen. Bob Runciman and recently signed by Governor General David Johnston. The House version was authored by House of Commons member Gordon Brown.
Bill S-233 received Royal Assent on June 19, 2017, meaning that American boaters and anglers will no longer be required to report to Canadian Customs as long as they do not leave their vessel, land, anchor, moor, or make contact with another conveyance in Canadian waters. However, the new law does require that boaters and anglers report to Canadian Customs if requested to do so by Customs agents. The change also means Canadians who venture into United States waters also do not have to contact Canadian Customs unless they leave their vessel, land, anchor, moor, or make contact with another conveyance in U.S. waters.
Prior to passage of the new law, American boaters and anglers were required to call Canadian Customs at (888) 226-7277 to check-in with their passport number, boat registration and express their intentions for entering Canadian waters and how long they anticipated being there.
“The reporting requirements were overly rigid, they were out of step with those facing Canadians who enter U.S. waters and they were hurting the economy of tourism-dependent border regions. And they didn’t do anything to enhance border security,” said Sen. Bob Runciman when asked why the rule change was important.
Although the new law makes it easier to boat and fish in Canadian waters, remember that valid fishing licenses are always required when fishing in U.S. and Canadian waters.
Additional information about Bill S-233 can be found on Sen. Runciman’s website. The Royal Assent can be found on the Parliament of Canada website.