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.
Lake Superior may set record high in 2018; Sea Grant, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to discuss possible levels, impacts.
By Elliot Nelson
The National Park’s Au Sable Dunes is an area being impacted from erosion due to near record high Lake Superior water levels. In 2017 a popular overlook and trail was temporarily shut down due to severe erosion. Photo: Todd Marsee, Michigan Sea Grant
Lake Superior water levels are high—really high. Current levels are within just a few inches of the all-time monthly high for March, which was set back in 1986. And predictions for May, June and July set a significant probability levels could reach or even exceed the all-time monthly high for those months. The Great Lakes in general had a significant period of lake water levels being well below average in the mid-1990s until about 5 years ago. Now water levels are higher than many people have seen in their lifetime.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has been tracking lake levels with scientifically valid data for more than 100 years. The USACE predicts lake level changes with a “6-month probability” forecast, which is updated every month.
What will be the impact of higher water levels?
In partnership with Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District Office will discuss the changing Lake Superior water levels. The presentations are free and open to all. Coastal home and property owners, city and township government officials, boaters and marina owners, management agencies, regional planners, and anyone who enjoys recreating along the coast of Lake Superior will find the topics particularly relevant.
Dr. Lauren Fry, who leads the water level forecasting mission at the Detroit District Office of Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology, will discuss what to expect in terms of lake levels over the next few months and the science that goes into determining Great Lake Water levels.
Michigan Sea Grant will provide materials and handouts to help understand what the impact might be on Lake Superior coastlines and how to prepare for the fact that lake levels change over time. A question and answer time will follow the presentations allowing the public to gain valuable insight on how changing water levels may affect them.
Meetings planned in Marquette, Sault Ste. Marie
April 16, 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. at the Marquette Charter Township Community Room, 1000 Commerce Drive, Marquette, MI 49855. Free parking on site.
April 17,6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. at Lake Superior State University, Crawford Hall Room 205, 906 Ryan Ave., Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783. Free parking in LSSU Library Lot, lot J.
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.
By Dan O’Keefe
The cisco (aka lake herring, Coregonus artedi) was one of the most abundant fish in Lake Michigan before unregulated commercial fishing, invasive species, and habitat degradation took their toll. By the mid-1960s, cisco were nearly wiped out. Most of their deepwater cousins also disappeared from the lake. Six out of seven native deepwater ciscoes are no longer found in Lake Michigan. The only deepwater cisco that still survives in Lake Michigan is the Bloater (Coregonus hoyi).
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.
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.
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.
Hands-on activities, games and practice develop fishing skills, encourage conservation.
By Meaghan Gass
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 Resources, Great 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Major threats to the world’s largest freshwater resource – the Great Lakes – will be on topic at the next Michigan State University Institute for Public Policy and Social Research’s Public Policy Forum.
The Forum is set for Wednesday, March 28 at 11:30 a.m. It is free, and the public is encouraged to attend.
“The Great Lakes have long come under financial and environmental pressure,” said IPPSR Director Matt Grossmann. Forum panelists will explore the lakes’ connections to human and economic health and look at recommendations for continued restoration efforts, he said.
Threats to continued funding have sparked major questions about the region’s ability to battle toxic and nutrient pollution, invasive species and habitat decline.
Rick Hobrla, Program Manager for Areas of Concern and Great Lakes Coordination, Office of Great Lakes, Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Anthony Kendall, Assistant Professor, Landscape Hydrology, MSU College of Natural Science.
Ron Kinnunen, Senior District Extension Educator, MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
All IPPSR Forums take place in the Mackinac Room, 5th floor of the Cora B. Anderson House Office Building (HOB) at 124 N. Capitol Avenue in downtown Lansing. A light luncheon is served, making reservations necessary. Reserve online or call 517-355-6672 to register.
IPPSR’s spring 2018 lineup of Public Policy Forums stretches to five this year. Upcoming topics yet this spring are:
Career and Technical Education, Wednesday, April 18, 2018.
Michigan Foster Care and Group Homes, Wednesday, May 2, 2018.
School, community partners from the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative learn and grow together.
By Brandon Schroeder
Teachers gather to discuss common interests in place-based education during a recent professional development session. Photo: Brandon Schroeder, Michigan Sea Grant
A community of practice represents an opportunity for a group of people to learn and grow together – a community with shared interests and together a wealth of shared expertise and experiences.
The Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) is a regional community network of schools and educators, communities and partners who are invested in connecting youth, through their learning, in caring for natural resources. This network and partnership regionally supports place-based education (PBE) and works together to engage youth seeking to enhance their learning through Great Lakes and natural resource stewardship projects.
This year’s meeting offered an opportunity to explore connections between project-based learning and place-based education experiences and opportunities for youth. Keynote speaker, Mary Whitmore, serves as director for the statewide Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative and champions PBE as an effective strategy to better connect youth learning with their communities while caring for the Great Lakes and natural resources. Whitmore shared a reflection on the idea of ‘Powerful Learning,’ describing the types of attributes we often seek in youth learners – and the types of educational strategies we often deploy to accomplish these outcomes. Through this lens, she illustrated how project-based learning and place-based educationstrategies serve together in complementary ways. For example, a student project that inspires greater learning opportunities can also serve as a place-based education experience when connected with local environment and a local community context.
An educational panel shared additional perspectives about project-based learning experiences that have also successfully served in growing place-based education opportunities, including:
Expanding through community connections: Monarch Watch and Salmon in the Classroom: Gail Gombos and Jen Inglis are elementary teachers at Alcona Community Schools, where students participate in the Monarch Watch and Salmon in the Classroom projects. Their school team has made strides in recent years to connect these student projects with broader community place-based education partnerships. Students who participate in the Monarch Watch project not only contribute important citizen science data, but are also contributing to a pollinator garden project at the local library. On the aquatic side, their Salmon in the Classroom project partnership engages students in broader watershed science and studies connected with their local marina.
iNaturalist, Schoolyard Bio-Blitz and Biodiversity Conservation: Gabi Likavec joined the panel from Central Michigan University and Michigan Geographic Alliance. Across Michigan, she inspires citizen science opportunities through Schoolyard Bioblitz’s and the iNaturalist digital reporting and mapping tool. Likavec shared examples of how iNaturalist has been used to conduct schoolyard and community bioblitz’s, how student-collected data is being used by scientists around the world, and how educators can leverage this project to accomplish learning goals.
Projects, inquiry, and place-based successes: Bob Thomson is a veteran elementary teacher from Alpena Public Schools, who serves on the NEMIGLSI leadership team and as a Center for Great Lakes Literacy mentor teacher. Through a watershed science and stewardship model, Thomson engages his students in a wide diversity of projects, ranging from building underwater robots to rearing native fish in his classroom. Thomson leverages these projects to connect his students with scientists and their local communities, and through inquiry-driven processes he challenges students to translate their projects into local science and stewardship projects that result in deeper, richer learning experiences for youth involved.
and engaged 4,483 youth in place-based stewardship education experiences.
At its core, the network and partnership is guided by a set of Principles for Exemplary Place-Based Stewardship Education (PBSE) co-developed with the Great Lakes Fishery Trust and nine statewide GLSI network hubs (including NEMIGLSI). This regional meeting reflected on these place-based education principles, examples in local practice, and regional network accomplishments. As a networking meeting participants also discussed upcoming opportunities, and engaged participants in exploring new ideas and planning future opportunities for the NEMIGLSI network.
Great Lakes drownings down 11 percent in 2017 – conference will focus on education, prevention and intervention to help continue trend.
By Ron Kinnunen
A water rescue station has been placed on a Lake Superior shoreline beach in Chocolay Township. Photo: Ron Kinnunen, Michigan Sea Grant
Are you ready for a safer 2018 in and around the big lakes? The Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium is bringing water safety experts and advocates together to share best practices and find drowning solutions to help everyone safely enjoy our Great Lakes at their annual Water Safety Conference, April 26-27, 2018, in Evanston, Illinois. The Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium connects first responders, community leaders, park rangers, research scientists, meteorologists, survivors, loved ones, and other water safety advocates to maximize collective knowledge, resources, and actions to end drowning in the Great Lakes.
Rip, structural, outlet, and channel currents continue to take the lives of many swimmers each year. Each of these types of dangerous currents have unique characteristics that pose a danger to swimmers. Many coastal communities are working together on water safety measures that will help protect swimmers using their beaches. The work appears to be paying off. There were 11 percent fewer drownings in the Great Lakes during 2017 according to data from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. Those attending the conference will leave with new strategies, insights, and know-how to save lives in their communities and the best ways to respond in the event of a tragedy.
Do you work at a shoreline park or beach? Are you a first responder, community leader or other public servant? A survivor or the friend or loved one of someone lost? Come to the conference and learn ways to keep people safer this year. This year’s conference theme is education, prevention and intervention, and will include time for interaction with experts. There also will be bonus sessions, demos, and a few surprises. In addition, there will be a recognition of water safety heroes including Volunteer of the Year, Water Safety Superhero, and the new Wayne & Toni Brown Water Safety Lifetime Achievement Award.
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.
Attending training in Michigan helps representatives develop plans for smoked fish processing to deal with food safety hazards unique to the product.
By Ron Kinnunen
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
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.
Mudpuppies are Michigan’s largest, fully aquatic salamander. Often referred to as ‘bio-indicators’ because they are sensitive to pollutants and water quality, these salamanders act as an early warning system for environmental problems but are often misunderstood.
Some common myths that the video seeks to dispel are noted below:
FICTION VS. FACT
Mudpuppies are a type of fish.
Mudpuppies are actually an amphibian and although they have lungs and can gulp air they rely on their feathery red external gills for oxygen.
Mudpuppies that are thrown on the ice by anglers will revive in the spring when the ice melts.
Unfortunately if a mudpuppy freezes it will die. When thrown on the ice mudpuppies will eventually suffocate or freeze to death.
Mudpuppies eat so many fish eggs that they decrease sport fish populations.
Their diet is mostly crayfish, insect larvae, snails and small fish (including invasive round gobies). There is no evidence that they impact fish populations, and they more likely benefit them by helping control non-native species.
Mudpuppies are not protected in Michigan and can be collected all year round.
In 2016, the mudpuppy was elevated to a species of special concern and is now protected by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. When you catch them, please put them back.
Mudpuppies compete with game species for food.
While mudpuppies do eat some of the same species as game fish, they also play an important role in controlling invasive species such as the round goby and they help keep water clean by feeding on sick or dead animals.
Anglers who hook them should cut the line because they are poisonous.
Although slimy, mudpuppies are not poisonous. Anglers should gently remove the hook and return them to the water.
Other interesting facts about mudpuppies
Mudpuppies mate in late fall but the females do not lay their eggs until the following spring.
Mudpuppies have no scales and their skin is very slimy.
Females usually lay 50-100 eggs in cavities or under rocks.
Eggs hatch 1-2 months after being laid.
Mudpuppies can live for more than 20 years and can take up to 10 years to reach sexual maturity.
Mudpuppies are also called waterdogs because of the barking sound they sometimes make.
Video viewers are also encouraged to help conserve mudpuppies and other amphibians and reptiles by reporting sightings in the Michigan Herp Atlas to help better protect and conserve Michigan’s biodiversity! You can also learn more about Mudpuppies and their conservation at the Mudpuppy Conservation page on Facebook.