Week of June 09 & 16, 2003
Product Review -
Lake Superior Fisheries Review for 2002
Fisheries of Lake Huron
Lake Trout Restoration Update - Yearling Lake Trout Stocking
Status of the Great Lakes Stocking Vessel M/V Togue
Binational Lake Sturgeon Group
Fisheries in Michigan Waters of Lake St. Clair
Lake Erie Islands Regional Welcome Center
opens new county Regional Welcome Center
Grand opening for the Lake Erie Islands Regional Welcome Center is June 14
Port Clinton is the gateway to some of the best walleye fishing anywhere – by anyone's standards - and Ottawa County has built a new Visitors Center to better welcome the nation's anglers, their families and all other visitors.
The new Lake Erie Islands Regional Welcome Center offers community and county visitors a large full service facility to accommodate all their travel needs to locate restaurants, lodging, fishing, other recreational activities as well as historic sites. Ottawa County has a bounty of leisure time activities to offer its visitors, but more about what Ottawa County has to offer later.
The Ottawa County Visitors Bureau staff of 7 full time and 6 part-time employees moved in to their new home April 1 to put it all together. This group, under the able leadership of bureau director Jamie Kochensparger, will more than adequately take care of the county's visitors and direct them to any restaurant, lodging or other recreational activity to suit leisure and business needs. They will even book your lodging for you. The visitors' center has something to offer all area visitors in the way of displays, services, racks of brochures and facilities. Their grand opening is set for June 14.
The facility is located just south of the intersection of SR 163 and US 53, and about a block north of US 2, that's Perry and Catawba Roads.
Some of the displays include: a replica of part of Commodore Perry's ship used in the war of 1812, Marblehead Lighthouse, wineries,Community of Lakeside, and a large aquarium of fish native to Lake Erie. Additional displays include information about: orchards, vineyards, fish species, and racks upon racks of literature of local highlights of the community including charter fishing, lodging, restaurants, shopping, charter fishing (did I mention that), other recreational activities, historic sites and maps.
It's a one-stop travel location for the entire Lake Erie
islands region, offering educational and entertaining videos highlighting the hot spots about the Lake Erie region in their new theater. They even have a 90 seat conference room that will be available, on a complimentary basis, to area groups.
The Center offers complete vacation packages, current weather forecasts, fishing reports, birding hot spots, scenic drives, passes to nearby attractions, and public restrooms and phones. There is ample parking for RVs and cars including a pet exercise area.
One of the Visitors Center highlights is the Lodging Locator phone board with hands on availability of direct connections to lodging from the center as well as interactive kiosks, hands-on exhibits that will entertain any age child or adult.
For more information call 800-441-1271 or check them out at www.lake-erie.com. Their knowledgeable and professional staff will be able to help you with all your leisure-time, tourism or business needs.
No county, state or federal tax dollars were used to build the $2.8 million structure. In the planning stages for over eight years, the funds were raised through "grace and donations" and the hard work of Kochensparger, marketing manager Molly Marker, and office manager Lisa Dubert.
We'll be visiting and reviewing some of the great recreational, restaurant, and lodging opportunities in the area in the near future, but for now, mark this down as a must-see resource, one that you can visit from home, by phone, the Internet and especially when you arrive in Port Clinton.
Remember the date, June 14 is the grand opening. Again, the Visitors' Center is located just south of the intersection of Rts. 163 and 53 at 770 SE Catawba Rd (Rt. 53) in Port Clinton, OH 43452, on the west side of the road, adjacent to the Erie-Ottawa-Sandusky Regional Airport. If you drive south to US 2, you've gone too far.
Their toll free number is 800-441-1271.
Highlights of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission's Lake Committee Meetings #2
Following are highlights of the Annual Lake Committee meetings for Lakes Erie, Michigan and Ontario. The reports for Lakes Superior and Huron will be summarized on the next posting.
The upper lake committee meetings — for Lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior— were held in Milwaukee, WI, March 17-20. The lake committee meeting for Lake Erie was held in Port Huron, MI, March 24-25, and the Lake Ontario committee meeting was held in Niagara Falls, ON, March 27-28. The Lake St. Clair session meeting was also
held in Port Huron March 25 after the Lake Erie Committee meeting. Ed.
An annual creel survey was conducted at all major ports along the Wisconsin shoreline. In 2002, an estimated 47,400 individual angler trips were made on Lake Superior, resulting in 213,830 angling hours. The harvest was estimated at 24,808 salmonids, with 23 charter fishing operations active in 2002. This industry has shown a reduction in participation since a peak of 50 licenses in 1990.
Wisconsin has 10 State licensed commercial fishers operating on Lake Superior. Whitefish and lake trout are the primary targets during the December through September season. Other commercial species harvested include lake herring, siscowet lake trout, deep-water chubs (cisco) and smelt.
Sea Lamprey Barriers
Wisconsin DNR operates three sea lamprey barriers on Lake Superior; the Middle River barrier, in operation since 1984, the Iron River barrier since 2002 and the Brule River barrier/fishway since 1985. In 2002, a sea lamprey control team from the USFWS in Marquette operated the Brule River trap and caught 490 sea lamprey. The overall downward trend in catch has continued since trapping operations began in 1986.
Four new regulations go into effect on April 1, 2003. 1) The 15" minimum size limit for salmon has been eliminated, 2) the brook trout minimum size limit for Lake Superior has been raised to 20" with a bag of one, 3) a catch and release only fishery for brook trout is established on Whittlesey Creek and the Bark River, and 4) the lake herring and whitefish daily bag limit has been combined to 10 fish.
2002 Lake Superior Salmonid Stocking
Lake Trout 46,674
Brown Trout 103,120
2003 Proposed Lake Superior Salmonid Stocking
Lake Trout 89,400
Brown Trout 80,000
Predominant prey fish in 2001-2002 included, in order of dominance by biomass, lake herring, lake whitefish, rainbow smelt, and bloater. These four species represented more than 70% of the total fish community biomass, but prey fish biomass has continued to decline since the most recent peak in 1990 and is now near the low levels observed in 1978-1979. Reasons for the decline can be linked to weak recruitment of age-1 lake herring, bloater, and smelt.
Strengths of lake herring year classes in Lake Superior fluctuated by a factor of more than 4379 over monitoring period. During the 25 years of monitoring, strong year-classes occurred during only three intervals, 1984, 1988-1990, and 1998, and age-1 abundance for those cohorts ranged from 5 to 70 fish/ha. The 1988-1990 interval produced three consecutive strong year classes and included the strongest year class to date (1989).
Most of the adult population present in the lake is the result of growth and recruitment of the 1988-1990 and 1998 year-classes. The minimum interval between year classes was 4 years, which occurs when herring spawn at 3.5 years of age. Given the past history of cohorts, the first year that a strong year class may be produced by the 1998 cohort will be in 2002. Our 2003 trawl assessment will determine the success of that reproductive effort.
Lake herring mean biomass in U.S. waters during 1978-2002 was higher than any other species captured, accounting for 26.5% of the total community biomass. Population trends for lake herring in Canadian waters have been similar to those in U.S. waters. Except in 1996, lake herring biomass in Canadian waters has been lower than in U.S. waters, ranging from a high of 1.31 kg/ha in 1991 to a low of 0.16 kg/ha in 1998.
Lake herring biomass in both western and eastern Ontario waters showed similar patterns of fluctuation between 1989 and 1997. Between 1998 and 2001, lake herring biomass continued to decline in eastern Ontario. In 2002, biomass in both regions dipped to the lowest levels recorded in the 14-year monitoring period.
Achieving recovery and long-term persistence of lake herring populations will require preserving sufficient numbers of reproductive adults in the population to ensure future reproductive success.
Smelt biomass in U.S. waters during 1978-2002 was ranked third behind lake herring and lake whitefish and accounted for 17.1% of the total community biomass. In 1970-1979 smelt was the dominant prey fish in Lake Superior, representing 40-53% of the total community biomass. Prior to the monitoring period, smelt populations were at record levels in Lake Superior. In 1978-1979, the beginning of the monitoring period, smelt biomass in U.S. waters peaked at 1.39 kg/ha but subsequently dropped by more than 85% to 0.21 kg/ha by 1981.
Among U.S. jurisdictions, Wisconsin accounted for 44.6% of the total smelt biomass, Michigan 30.6% and Minnesota 24.8%. During the 1989-2002 monitoring period, trends in rainbow smelt biomass in Canadian waters shared features with those in U.S. waters, but biomass levels were consistently higher in Canadian waters. Mean biomass for smelt in Canadian waters was nearly twice that in U.S. waters.
Bloater club biomass in U.S. waters during 1978-2002 ranked fourth behind lake herring, rainbow smelt, and lake whitefish, and accounted for 13.5% of the total community biomass. In U.S. waters, bloater biomass was low during 1978-1983, then more than doubled in 1984-1986 and remained relatively high through 1993. In the last interval, biomass declined gradually to 2002 levels.
Trends in biomass in U.S. and Canadian jurisdictions between 1989-2001 were very similar; however, biomass has tended to be higher in U.S. waters.
Lake whitefish mean biomass in U.S. waters during 1978-2002 was second only to lake herring and accounted for 19.0% of the total community biomass. During 1978-1983, biomass of lake whitefish was low in U.S. waters, then increased during 1984-1986 and then fluctuated to the present time. Trends in lake whitefish biomass in Canadian waters were similar to those in U.S. waters during 1989-2002, but dropped in 2002 compared to U.S. waters.
Lake whitefish mean biomass differed greatly among U.S. jurisdictions. Biomass was extremely low in Minnesota and accounted for <0.1% of the total biomass in U.S. waters. In Michigan, the mean biomass was higher and accounted for 11.8% of the total biomass. Biomass of whitefish in Wisconsin was relatively high and represented 88.2% of the total biomass.
Ninespine stickleback was a minor species in U.S. waters
during 1978-2002; biomass accounted for 2.3% of the total community biomass. In Canadian waters, biomasses were
similar to those in the U.S. with the exception of a large spike in biomass that occurred in 1995-1997.
Trout-perch was another minor species in U.S. waters during 1978-2002; mean biomass accounted for 1.4% of the total community biomass. Trends in Canadian waters between 1989 and 2002 were similar to those in U.S. waters.
Slimy sculpin, another minor species, was the most abundant sculpin species in U.S. waters during 1978-2002; and accounted for 1.4% of the total community biomass. In Canadian waters, slimy sculpin biomass has tended to be higher than in U.S. waters, but the trends for the 1989-2002 period were similar.
The state of the Lake Superior fish community appeared to be well on the road to full recovery in the early 1990s. However, since that time we have witnessed declines in all key species including lake trout. Herring stocks have declined to low levels that now approach the low levels observed in the early portion of the 25-year monitoring period. Smelt biomass continues to decline, as does biomass of bloater. Only biomass of the resilient whitefish has tended to remain stable, but has declines in many areas of Lake Superior.
Lake-wide trawl assessments indicate that total community biomass, including lake trout, has been in decline since the mi-1990s, which has occurred despite what appears to be an ample food base. The key to further restoration of the Lake Superior fish community is to fully recover lake herring, the principal prey species. ˛
Total marking rate increased slightly from 6.0 in ’01 to 6.2 marks per 100 lake trout in ’02. The percent of marked lake trout decreased across all size groups except for the 533-634 mm size group when compared to 2001. Overall percentage of lake trout marked in 2002 was about average for that reported from 1985-2002. Despite the overall low level of lamprey marking from 1994-2002, a large increase occurred at French River.
The catch per unit effort (CPUE) of stocked lake trout decreased from 2001 to 2002. The total CPUE of stocked lake trout in the May assessment increased from 1976-1982, then stabilized at about 50 lake trout/1,000 m of net through 1991, and has since generally declined to a low of 11.4 lake trout/1,000 m in 2002. The total CPUE of wild lake trout declined sharply in 2002 to 26.9 lake trout/1,000 m, but is still approximately twice the catch rate for stocked lake trout. The overall CPUE of stocked and wild lake trout combined in the May assessment declined from 2001 to 2002.
Lake herring abundance has increased substantially in the commercial catch since 1985. In 2002, total harvest of lake herring in the gill net fishery was 375,946 lb. and harvest increased when compared to the 2001 total harvest of 319,412 lb. The adult lake herring stock vulnerable to the commercial fishery has stabilized and appears to be decreasing in Minnesota waters, as indicated by the commercial catch statistics from 1995-2002. However, a very strong 1998 year class which was well represented in the USGS 1999 spring forage survey may be starting to recruit to the fishery as indicated by the occurrence of younger, smaller fish in the 2002 harvest. The 1998 year class of lake herring was the strongest recorded in Minnesota waters since 1990.
The spring rainbow smelt spawning run along the Minnesota shore of Lake Superior remained at a very low level, and few fish were captured in the dip net fishery, compared to the pre-1980 period. From 1980-1990, commercial harvest had stabilized at approximately 15% of the average harvest during the 1970s. Commercial harvest in the 2001 pound net fishery was 85,645 lb. and decreased to 18,180 lb. in 2002. No commercial trawling for smelt occurred in 2002.
Fish Production and Stocking
In 2003, Minnesota plans to produce and stock three species of trout and salmon. Two strains of rainbow trout will be produced: steelhead and Kamloops. All steelhead will originate from Minnesota stocks. The chinook salmon program was revised in 1998. Because of extremely low chinook salmon returns to the French River Trap not enough gametes could be collected to sustain a program. The decision was made to obtain gametes from the Swan River, Lake Huron. The new quota for chinook salmon is 355,000 fingerlings. From 1998-2001 Minnesota secured eggs from Lake Huron. Starting in 2002, gametes were again collected at the French River Trap to create chinook salmon fingerlings for stocking in 2003. In 2003, Minnesota will stock approximately 270,000 lake trout. Starting in 2003, statistical district MN-3 will not longer be stocked with lake trout.
In the past decade, the FWS and DFO have reduced the dependency on TFM through the development and implementation of alternative controls, the refinement of assessment procedures, and improvement of application techniques to more efficiently treat tributaries. The use of TFM has decreased 35% from an annual average of 55,169 kg active ingredient from 1986 through 1990 to an annual average of 35,687 kg active ingredient from 1998 through 2002.
• Lake Superior has 1,566 (733 U.S., 833 Canada) tributaries.
• 139 (92 U.S., 47 Canada) tributaries have historical records of production of sea lamprey larvae.
• 68 (39 U.S., 29 Canada) tributaries have been treated with lampricides at least once during 1993-2002.
• Of these, 52 (32 U.S., 20 Canada) tributaries are treated on a regular 3-5 year cycle.
FWS and DFO treatment units administer and monitor doses of the lampricide TFM, sometimes augmented with Bayluscide 705% Wettable Powder, to scheduled tributaries.
• Treatments with TFM were completed in 14 tributaries (11 U.S., 3 Canada).
• Treatment effectiveness studies were conducted in 2 U.S. tributaries.
• A total of 2,408 spawning-phase male sea lampreys were transported to the sterilization facility from trapping operations on the Rock (266), Misery (96), Brule (175), and Middle (1,871) rivers.
Presently, there are 16 barriers on Lake Superior tributaries.
• Construction of the Little Carp River barrier was completed in March.
An all-purpose exotic species Pine River barrier was constructed by the Huron Mountain Club.
• 7,799 sea lampreys were trapped in 21 tributaries during 2002.
• The estimated population of spawning-phase sea lampreys for 2002 was 110,391 (42,806 western U.S. and 67,585 eastern U.S. and Canada).
Recreational fisheries are found throughout most of the waters of Lake Huron. Traditional fisheries were generally found in the nearshore regions, especially in Georgian Bay, the North Channel and Saginaw Bay. Data is incomplete for Canadian waters of Lake Huron.
In 2002, yield increased to the highest it has been in several years. Total yield in Michigan waters in 2002 reached 0.926 million kg of fish. The largest component was made up by chinook salmon (645,000 kg) followed by yellow perch (101,000 kg) and lake trout (82,000 kg).
Chinook salmon make up over 95% of the harvest in MH1 in northern Lake Huron. Saginaw Bay has the most diverse fishery where yellow perch is generally the largest component of the harvest. The increasing chinook yield in MH1, MH3 and MH5 appear to have driven the total lakewide yield to its high level in 2002. The recreational fisheries in Canadian waters are similar to those in U.S. waters, especially in the main basin.
Commercial fisheries operate in every basin of Lake Huron. Lake whitefish is the primary species sought by the commercial fishery, but there are also substantial fisheries that target chub, yellow perch, walleye, Pacific salmon, lake herring, freshwater drum, channel catfish, carp, and bullheads. Changes in distribution of lake whitefish during the last five years have also changed the fishing methods of commercial fishermen and may also be affecting catchability.
In 2001, total commercial exploitation was reported to be 5.42 million kg (11,949,000 lbs). Lake whitefish accounted for the largest proportion of the catch with a reported harvest of 4.28 million kg in 2001 – 83%. Lake trout accounted for 287,800 kg, followed by yellow perch (208,000 kg) and catfish (151,100 kg). Deepwater chub harvest is at an all time low at just over 60,000 kg in 2001. That is the lowest level seen since the turn of the last century.
CPE of adult lake whitefish has decreased since the mid-1990s, and this trend continued during 2002. Lake whitefish fed most commonly on Diporeia, larvae, and fingernail clams but also consumed fish. Most of the fish consumed by lake whitefish were age-0 alewives.
Stocking and rehabilitation programs in Lake Huron are creating larger numbers of lake trout in the lake. This in conjunction with the high incidental catch rate when fishing for lake whitefish has increased harvest of this species.
Commercial harvest of percids, walleye (144,300 kg) and yellow perch, continue to be depressed and highly variable compared to historical harvests although localized harvests of yellow perch have increased in southern Lake Huron. All other species saw declines in commercial harvest levels in the lake. (1 kilogram = 2.2046 lbs. Ed)
The Great Lakes Science Center has conducted annual trawl surveys of the fish community in Lake Huron since 1973. No sampling was conducted during 2000, but sampling resumed during 2001. Adult alewife abundance during 2002 was high due to the strong year classes of '98, '99, and '01, and age-0 alewives from the 2002 year classes were moderately abundant. Alewife greater than 150 mm total length, were abundant.
The 2002 year class was not as strong as the exceptionally strong year classes of '98 and '01, but was close to the '92-'02 average. However, adult alewives were more abundant than at any time since 1995. Age structure of the alewife population reflects recent recruitment trends. Age-1 fish from the strong 2001 year class were abundant, and age-4 fish from the strong 1998 year class were slightly more abundant than age-2 or age-3 individuals.
Rainbow smelt were at the lowest level of recorded abundance since 1992 despite a strong year class in 1999. Year class strength during 2002 appeared weak. Low adult abundance suggests that both year class strength and survival have declined. Age-0 rainbow smelt were also scarce; CPE of this age class was the second lowest recorded since 1992. The reason for low abundance is unknown, but it means that rainbow smelt will remain largely unavailable to both salmonines and humans.
Bloater abundance remained low with an even age distribution. Bloaters have declined since 1992 to low levels by 1998. Abundance has remained low since 1998. Age-0 bloaters were rare during 2002. Age-0 bloaters were virtually absent from trawl catches during 2002.
Abundance of most other prey species decreased; however, round gobies increased in abundance at southern ports. Prey biomass in U.S. waters declined from 2001, but species composition remained similar, with alewife dominating the prey biomass. Monitoring of benthic invertebrates during 2001 and 2002 suggests a decline in the deepwater amphipod Diporeia, which is now absent from shallow depths, and declining at depths of 46 m.
Quagga mussels may be replacing zebra mussels. Lake whitefish and round gobies both consume Diporeia, and may be forced to share a dwindling resource. The offshore fish community remains dominated by non-native species, and low abundance of rainbow smelt, bloaters, and lake whitefish may potentially reduce future sport or commercial yields.
The 2002 survey was carried out during October 24-November 14, 2002. Gale force winds and mechanical breakdowns caused several delays, but the GLSC was able to sample the 5 ports in U.S. waters.
Sculpin abundance has been highly variable since 1992, but CPE during 2002 suggests that sculpin abundance is decreasing. Deepwater sculpins comprise most of the trawl catch, while slimy sculpins are only a minor component of the fish community. Overall sculpin abundance during 2002 was below the average value for the time period, and slimy sculpins were virtually absent from the catch. Abundance of 9-spine sticklebacks and trout-perch continues a general decline. One factor underlying the apparent decreases in this group may be the recent proliferation of round gobies.
Gobies have expanded their abundance and range in Lake Huron. CPE of round gobies has increased annually since 1997 (the year when they were first encountered during the survey). Round gobies were found as deep as 73 m during fall, and had a diverse invertebrate diet in the offshore habitat.
Biomass estimates for U.S. waters suggest that total prey biomass was lower in 2002 compared with 2001, and the fish community continues to be dominated by alewives. The proportion of other species remained similar to 2001, but with overall lower biomass for all species. The most important trend was for alewife; alewife numerical abundance decreased by over 50% between 2001 and 2002, but biomass decreased by only 33% due to increased abundance of adult fish, particularly yearlings. Biomass reductions in other species were more proportional to numerical decrease.
Diporeia were generally absent at shallow depths during both 2001 and 2002. At 46 m, Diporeia density decreased between 2001 and 2002, primarily through complete disappearance at many stations.
Alewives produced strong year classes during 1998, 1999, and 2001; these year classes have persisted through time. This has led to increased abundance of large alewives, which are the preferred prey of salmonines. However, the cold winter of 2002-2003 may reduce survival of these fish.
In contrast with alewives, abundance of most other species has declined. This should not greatly affect prey availability because those species are less preferred by piscivores, or too large to be consumed by most predators. However, availability of lake whitefish, bloaters, and rainbow smelt for human fishers may decrease.
Zebra mussels are ubiquitous in Lake Huron, but it appears that quagga mussels are replacing zebra mussels, at least at 27 m stations.
Diporeia is declining sequentially from shallow to deeper depths. Diporeia at 27 m had disappeared from that depth. Diporeia declines are underway at 46 m.
See TABLE 1: Fish Stocking in Lake Huron 2002
Tag recoveries help biologists understand immigration and emigration between management zones and aid in the calculation of mortality rates and Harvest Limits (HLs).
Stocking of hatchery-reared lake trout was initiated in Lake Huron in 1973 following the implementation of sea lamprey control. Numerous hypotheses have been generated to explain the lack of progress. In addition to impacts of over fishing and sea lamprey wounding, genetic inadequacies and general fitness of the hatchery fish being stocked in Lake Huron were believed to be areas of major concern.
In March 1983, the Lake Huron Committee planned a coordinated, lakewide lake trout rehabilitation strategy. A stocking strategy was initiated in the fall of 1985 to evaluate the performance of paired releases of Seneca Lake, Marquette-Superior, and Jenny Lake strains of lake trout. All lake trout used in this experiment were externally marked with an excised adipose fin and implanted with binary coded-wire tags (CWTs) and released into areas subjected to different selective pressures. The objective of these studies is to monitor the performance of alternative lake trout strains in Lake Huron. Strain performance is being measured in terms of growth, sea lamprey wounding, survival, contribution to the spawning stock, and contribution to wild progeny. The overall goal of this program is the selection of preferred strains that will help facilitate the recovery of lake trout in Lake Huron.
In an effort to quantify post-stocking movements, coded-
wire tagged lake trout have been stocked at strategic
locations along the western shore of Lake Huron including Adams Point, Middle Island, Sturgeon Point, Point Aux Barques, Six Fathom Bank and Northern Refuge. Study objectives were to: 1) determine the extent of migration, and 2) better define seasonal inshore/offshore movement patterns.
Since 1993, a total of 4,508 coded-wire tags have been recovered from plants of the '91, '93, '95 and '97 year-classes of these study fish.
In the past decade, the USFWS and DFO have reduced the dependency on TFM through the development and implementation of alternative controls, refinement of assessment procedures, and improvement of application techniques to more efficiently treat tributaries. The use of TFM has decreased 35% from an annual average of 55,169 kg (121,626 lbs) from 1986-1990 to an annual average of 35,687 kg (78,676 lbs) 1998-2002.
At least twice as many lampreys remain in Lake Huron than in any of the other Great Lakes. Estimated abundance of sea lampreys during 2002 was one of the measures used to determine success of applications of Bayluscide 3.2% Granular Sea Lamprey Larvicide in the St. Marys River during 1998-1999.
• Lake Huron has 1,761 (427 US, 1,334 Canada) tributaries.
• 120 (65 US, 55 Canada) tributaries have historical records of production of sea lamprey larvae.
• 68 (31 US, 37 Canada) tributaries have been treated with lampricide at least once during 1993-2002.
• Of these, 48 (22 US, 26 Canada) tributaries are treated on a regular 3 to 5 year cycle.
• Lampricide treatments were completed on 12 Lake Huron tributaries (3 US, 9 Canada) scheduled for treatment.
• Numbers of nontarget fish killed in treatments were minimal.
Tributaries of Lake Huron treated include:
Saginaw R. (10), Caroll Cr., Little Salt Cr., Big Salt R./Bluff Cr., Shiawassee R., Ocqueoc R. (12), Rifle R. (11)
Nottawasaga R. (9), Mindemoya R. (8), Spanish R. (5), Watson Cr. (2), Upper Thessalon R. (4), Garden R. (1), Brown’s Cr. (3)
Sterile Male Release Technique
• A total of 11,593 spawning-phase male sea lampreys were trapped in Lake Huron tributaries and transported to the sterilization facility for sterilization and release into the St. Marys River.
• A total of 22,684 sterilized male lampreys from all sources were released in the St. Marys River.
• Reduction of lamprey was 94% during 2002, an increase from an average of 87% during 1997-2001. Prior to 1991-1996, the reduction in reproduction averaged 58%.
Ruffe abundance in the Amnicon, Iron, and Flag Rivers in Wisconsin, and the St. Louis River on the Wisconsin/Minnesota border is comparable to 2001, and ruffe abundance continues to be high relative to native forage fish abundance. USGS and Ashland FRO bottom trawl data indicate that the St. Louis ruffe population is stabilizing at approximately 1,000/ha, and the ruffe populations in the three Wisconsin tributaries are stabilizing from 200-300/ha. For common native forage fish such as spot tail shiner, abundance has been averaging approximately 200-400/ha in trawls in the St. Louis River, while abundance in the three Wisconsin tributaries has been averaging 200/ha or less in trawls.
Ruffe recruitment in the St. Louis River increased 42% from 2001, while recruitment in the three Wisconsin tributaries is comparable or declined slightly from 2001. Year class strength of trout-perch, a common forage fish associate of ruffe, ranged from good to strong in 4 out of 5 of these tributaries. Since 1995, species diversity in trawls within the three Wisconsin tributaries has been generally stable, and has increased slightly in the Iron River (Evrard et al. 1998, Czypinski 2002).
In the three Wisconsin tributaries, 2002 trawl data continues to indicate a trend in which yellow perch abundance declines in years that ruffe abundance increases. Using a statistical method called "First Difference," an analysis conducted by Dr. Derek Ogle, Northland College, found this trend to be weakly significant for all three Wisconsin tributaries combined (data is insuf-ficient for application to the Ontonagon River, MI). The relatively short timeline of the study (8 years), and the inclusion of YOY in the density calculations of both ruffe and yellow perch may have degraded the results of the analysis. However, the results do indicate that something is occurring between ruffe and yellow perch. We just don’t know what it is yet.
In Chequamegon Bay, Wisconsin DNR gillnets set in four locations resulted in an average CPE of 18 adult ruffe/unit (one unit equals one 38 mm stretch mesh gillnet panel, 91.5 meters in length set for one 24 hour period). This compares to a CPE of 86 adult ruffe/unit in gillnets near the Ashland ore dock in 2001. WDNR gillnet indexing together with reports of high frequency of angler ruffe catches continue to indicate that a substantial ruffe population resides in Chequamegon Bay, and WDNR seining spears to indicate that at least a fair ruffe year class was produced in 2002.
On the south shore of Lake Superior, ruffe made a significant range expansion (101 km) eastward after remaining confined to their previous range for 8 years. The Sturgeon River Sloughs borders the Keweenaw Waterway, a complex river system (Portage River) that provides access to Lake Superior on both sides of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Besides the soft substrate sloughs, the waterway consists of natural and deeply dredged channels, shallow flats, embayments, tributaries, and two large interconnected lakes. This complex system is the only major preferred ruffe habitat east of the Ontonagon River, MI, and with the strong Keweenaw current on the west side of the peninsula, the vector of introduction was likely migration.
Ruffe are expected to become entrenched here and expand into a large population, possibly before expanding eastward across Keweenaw Bay. It is too early to tell how fast the Keweenaw ruffe colony will expand, but the large predator population in the waterway consisting of northern pike and walleye may aid in delaying expansion. Coordination and investigation into actions that might slow expansion are also underway. Ruffe have clearly arrived at the gateway to eastern Lake Superior via the south shore.
Lake Superior – In the Ontonagon River, MI, the previous eastern boundary of the ruffe range on the south shore of Lake Superior, the average ruffe CPE in trawls was 33/hour compared to 78/hour in 2001. Although the ruffe catch rate declined 58% from 2001, the trend in ruffe abundance continues to increase. Consideration should also be given to the fact that the 2001 CPE was influenced by one 10-minute trawl catch consisting of 202 ruffe, of which over 90% were YOY. Michigan Technological University (MTU) had ruffe CPE’s of 4/hour in trawls, and one/unit on setlines (one unit equals 20 baited hooks set for one 24-hour period). Ruffe year class strength was poor. The total ruffe catch (148) by Ashland FRO and MTYU combined, consisted of only 5% YOY. Since 1995, species diversity in trawls has gradually declined from 22 taxa in 1995 to 14 taxa in 2002.
The annual ruffe survey in Thunder Bay Harbor, ON that is normally conducted during October was cancelled due to unseasonably cold weather.
Lake Michigan – In Little Bay de Noc, the capture of both adult and juvenile ruffe suggests that ruffe reproduction may already be occurring in Lake Michigan. The total catch of 3 ruffe equates to an average CPE of approximately 3/hour in trawls. However, this catch rate was based on a biased survey, the objective being to determine the extent of the ruffe range in Little Bay de Noc by targeting as many sites as feasible, likely to contain ruffe. A total of 248 round gobies (variable size classes) were also capture in this survey, mostly in trawls. In northern Little Bay de Noc in the estuaries of the Rapid and Whitefish Rivers, only trap nets were used, as depths were too shallow to conduct bottom trawling. No ruffe or round gobies were captured in these trap nets.
Tissue samples from the three ruffe discovered in Lake Michigan were extracted for genetics analysis. The purpose of this analysis is to try to identify the geographic origin of the Lake Michigan ruffe. Carol A. Stepien, Ph.D., Director of the Great Lakes Environmental Genetics Lab at Cleveland State U in Cleveland, OH is conducting the analysis. Stepien determined that the Lake Michigan ruffe originated from a location within the Great Lakes and not overseas. Through further analysis, Stepien is attempting to determine whether the Lake Michigan ruffe originated from Lake Superior or Lake Huron.
Lake Huron – The spring presence of ripe adults in the Thunder Bay River suggests that ruffe continue to reproduce in the area. As long as ruffe reproduction continues in the Thunder Bay River, the potential for range expansion remains viable. Efforts will continue to remove reproductive ruffe from the Thunder Bay River prior to spawning, and to survey outlying areas for their presence.
The current range of ruffe in the Great Lakes is as follows:
Lake Superior Current boundaries of range with Duluth/Superior Harbor as origin:
North Shore – From the Duluth/Superior Harbor to Thunder Bay Harbor, Ontario, Canada
South Shore – From the Duluth/Superior Harbor to the Sturgeon River Sloughs near Chassell, MI
Lake Michigan Little Bay de Noc, Escanaba/Gladstone, MI
Lake Huron Thunder Bay River & Harbor, Alpena, MI
Lake Erie Unconfirmed
Lake Ontario Not Observed
Lake Trout Yearlings – 3,511,000 yearling lake trout were released at 46 locations in Lakes Superior, Huron and Michigan during 2002. Of these, 613,000 were released onshore and 2,900,000 were released offshore using the M/V Togue. All lake trout were coded-wire tagged and/or fin-clipped. Distribution included 256,000 into Lake Superior, 1,119,000 into Lake Huron and 2,137,000 into Lake Michigan.
Size at Stocking – The number and mean size of yearlings stocked in 2002 were averaged 11.5 fish/lb for Jordan River National Fish Hatchery and Iron River NFH.
Spring 2003 – The Service is preparing to stock approximately 3.6 million yearling lake trout into the Upper Great Lakes this spring, including 1.2 million from Iron River NFH, 1.9 million from Jordan River NFH and 540,000 from Pendills Creek NFH.
The Service’s Great Lakes lake trout stocking vessel M/V Togue is set to stock fish into Lakes Huron and Michigan during 2003. The results of a hull, machinery and electrical survey by Naval Architects from the JMS Marine Science and Technology Center indicate end of the M/V Togue’s service life after the 2004 stocking season.
The M/V Togue has distributed 25 million yearling lake trout to offshore stocking sites in the Upper Great Lakes during the past eight years. Stocking offshore is the only available method to utilize yearling lake trout to colonize historically productive
reefs, a strategy that is specified in restoration plans for Lakes Huron
The Service has contracted Timothy Graul marine design and is nearing the completion of a conceptual design for a replacement offshore stocking vessel for the M/V Togue. The new vessel will have improved lake trout stocking capabilities and perform lake trout assessment including gill netting and trawling. The FWS plan calls for operation of the new vessel in time for lake trout stocking in 2005.
This report details information on 1,138 lake sturgeon encountered during the 2001 field season. A total of 60 lake sturgeon that were handled during 2001 were tagged in previous years. The total number of lake sturgeon tagged in the central Great Lakes is approaching 5,500 fish.
Emerging technologies have allowed for treatment of 9 streams in Michigan and Canada containing both sea lamprey and lake sturgeon, with no lake sturgeon mortality in 2001.
In 1995, resource personnel from federal, state, and provincial agencies agreed to a collaborative effort to better define the population status of lake sturgeon in Lakes Huron and Erie and their connecting waterways. These efforts resulted in creation of the Central Great Lakes Bi-national Lake Sturgeon Group. Surveys show that a healthy population of lake sturgeon exists in the St. Marys River.
The majority of Lake Huron sturgeon came from the main basin, while 137 and 80 sturgeon came from the North Channel and Georgian Bay, respectively. Tags were applied to 446 sturgeon. The total number of sturgeon
tagged and released in the St. Clair system, since 1996, now exceeds 1100 fish. Tag recoveries are increasing, with 39 recoveries through 2001.
Protection under the Michigan Endangered Species Act has made it impossible to incorporate sturgeon into routine contaminant monitoring programs that typically require the sacrifice of the fish but which produce data critical to a better understanding of a species’ overall health. Because of this protection, there is very little data published enumerating the contaminant levels in sturgeon.
35 lake sturgeon were captured in the Detroit River in 2001, bringing the two-year total to 74 individual lake sturgeon.
Approximately 165 sturgeon have been captured in W. Lake Erie between 1995 – 2001. 25 were caught in 2001. Initiated in 1998 in the lower Niagara River, during 2001, a total of 26 were collected. In 2002, 40 sturgeon were captured in the lower river and in Lake Ontario near the mouth. No recaptures were recorded in 2002.
Entries in the Master Angler Program clearly show that Lake St. Clair is the premier Michigan water for trophy musky and smallmouth bass. The trap net survey of Lake St. Clair in 2002 revealed a channel catfish population with a high proportion of Master Angler-sized individuals.
A bacterial disease, previously unknown in the Great Lakes, was found in Lake St. Clair muskie. Some of the muskie captured during the trap net survey exhibited raised, reddish sores. Analysis revealed these fish were infected with a Piscirickettsia bacterium, a type of bacteria not previously isolated from muskie or any other fish species in the Great Lakes.
Harvestable-size yellow perch abundance will be about the same as last year, with strong contributions from the 2000 and 1998 year classes. Legal-sized walleye numbers will decline in 2003 and the average size will be smaller as the 2001 year class enters the fishery. Walleye abundance is expected to decline further in 2004 and sport fishing regulations will likely be revised. Muskie and bass numbers tend to remain more stable from year to year and both species should continue to provide excellent fishing opportunities in 2003.
On Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River, charter boat anglers harvested 13,731 fish. Yellow perch (72%), "other" species (19%), and walleye (9%) made up the bulk of the catch. The "other" species category consists mainly of smallmouth and muskie.
During the period since 1990, walleye catch rates declined markedly. The number of reported charter excursions on Lake St. Clair in 2002 declined, possibly a reflection of the lower walleye catch rate for the year.
Data indicate the muskie fishery exceeds that of any other period in modern history. Angler reports indicate spectacular catch rates. Muskie catch rates derived from the Angler Diary Program on Lake St. Clair verify these reports. The total number of muskie from Lake St. Clair entered for Master Angler Awards in 2002 exceeded 50 fish for the sixth consecutive year. The number of fish over 30 lbs remained above the numbers recorded prior to 1991.
Statistics show that Lake St. Clair is the premier
waterbody in the state for trophy smallmouth, accounting for 26% of all small-mouth bass entries in 2002. Since the early 1990s, both catch/keep and catch/release Master Angler smallmouth bass entries have exhibited an increasing trend.
The daily walleye bag limit in Michigan’s waters of Lake Erie will remain a 5 fish daily limit with 1 additional fish, for a total daily limit of 6 fish per day for 2003. This results in consistent Michigan walleye size and daily bag limits for Michigan waters from the St. Clair River to Lake Erie.
Effective April 1, 1999, harvesting of lake sturgeon is prohibited from Michigan’s Great Lakes and connecting waters, except for the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair. On the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair, regulations include a "slot" size limit, with a 42" minimum length limit and a maximum 50" length limit, a season bag limit of 1 fish, an open season from July 16 to September 30, and mandatory registration of harvested sturgeon at designated check stations.
No lake sturgeon were registered at the check stations during the 1999 or 2000, three were registered during 2001 and six were registered in 2002. All were reportedly caught in the North Channel of the St. Clair River.
The open season for smallmouth and largemouth bass fishing in the Michigan portion of the connecting waters (St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, and Detroit River) is the third Saturday in June to December 31. In recent years, "preseason" fishing for bass has become increasingly popular on these waters. Many anglers are apparently unaware that it is a violation of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act to fish for smallmouth bass during the closed season, even if the angler intends to release any bass caught.
The objective of the season closure is to protect bass during pre-spawning and spawning periods when they are particularly vulnerable to over-exploitation. Male bass guard the nest and protect the eggs and fry from predation by other fish. Removing guarding males for just a minute or two has been documented to increase egg and fry predation. In 2003, low water levels may make spawning bass more visible and thus more vulnerable to fishing in Lake St. Clair. DNR management urges bass anglers to show restraint and comply with the existing fishing regulations on the connecting waters.
Responses to a survey were received from 65 agencies representing 44 states, 11 provinces, 2 U.S. territories, District of Columbia, USFWS, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Forest Service, National Park Service, and U.S. Geological Survey
Scope of use – Rotenone continues to be an important management tool and has been used by governmental agencies in at least 35 states for more than 50 years (since 1949). The principal reasons for the use of rotenone remained unchanged. These were quantification of fish populations, manipulation of fish populations, and treatment of rearing ponds. Rotenone also played an important role in the eradication of exotic
species and in the restoration of threatened and endangered species in natural waters, although the quantities used were not large.
Average annual use during the 1998-2000 period declined nearly 8% from the period 1993-1997.
Data indicate that fisheries scientists and managers have become more conservative and efficient in their use of rotenone. For both standing and flowing waters, the amount of rotenone used per unit of water treat decreased, although the treatment purposes remained essentially unchanged. The average annual use in standing waters during the period 1998-2000 was 45% less than during the period 1988-1997, although the average annual volume of standing waters treated was 60% greater. (Courtesy, AFS)
TABLE 1: Fish Stocking in Lake Huron 2002 - NUMBER OF PREDATORS STOCKED INTO THE LAKE HURON BASIN
Chinook Coho Brown Rainbow Lake Atlantic Brook
Year Salmon Salmon Trout Trout Trout Walleye Salmon Trout Splake Total
2000 62,541,678 2,309,039 89,610,558 20,742,684 39,670,312 36,311,163 510,215 626,211 519,583 178,582-685
2001 3,667,071 0 389,069 670,728 3,570,696 1,068,395 35,909 0 30,820 9,432,688
2001 3,210,453 0 477,371 441,751 3,382,436 1,224,502 29,313 0 32,200 8,798,026
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