Week of June 11,, 2007

Words to Ponder


Beyond the Great Lakes
Lake Michigan


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Words to Ponder

Thought for the Day

Calling an illegal alien an "undocumented immigrant" is like .

calling a drug dealer an "unlicensed pharmacist"


Weekly Great Lakes Water Levels for June 8, 2007

Lake Level Conditions

Lake Superior is presently 15 inches below its level of a year ago, while Lake Michigan-Huron is 2 inches lower than it was at this time last year.  Lakes St. Clair, Erie, and Ontario are 1 to 5 inches above their levels of a year ago.  Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron are expected to rise 3 inches and 1 inch, respectively, over the next 30 days.  Lakes St. Clair, Erie and Ontario are predicted to drop 2 inches over the next month. During the next few months, Lake Superior is predicted to remain well below its water level of a year ago, while water levels of the remaining lakes are expected to be similar or slightly below last year’s levels.


Current Outflows/Channel Conditions

Outflow from the St. Marys River is predicted to be well below average for June. Flows through the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers are also predicted to be lower than average this month. Flow in the Niagara River is expected to be above average, while flow in the St. Lawrence River is forecasted to be below average.



Due to abnormally dry conditions on the Lake Superior basin

over the last several months, | Lake Superior ’s water level is currently below chart datum and is expected to remain below datum over the next six months.  Users of the Great Lakes, connecting channels and St. Lawrence River should keep informed of current conditions before undertaking any activities that could be affected by changing water levels.  Mariners should utilize navigation charts and refer to current water level readings.





St. Clair



Level for June 8






Datum, in ft






Diff in inches


+ 3




Diff last month






Diff from last yr







Beyond the Great Lakes

Restoration Efforts Target American Shad in

Roanoke River

RALEIGH, N.C. (June 5) – It’s an encouraging chapter in what has become an all-too-familiar bleak story of a natural resource lost because of habitat degradation and over-harvesting.


American shad, once an important commercial and recreational fishery, declined sharply in the late 20th century; however, this trend may be reversing, thanks to the cooperative efforts of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Since 1998, the two agencies have worked together to restore depleted populations of American shad along the Atlantic Coast by stocking more than 8 million “marked” shad fry in the Roanoke River as part of the Roanoke River American Shad Restoration Program.


So far, Commission biologists have captured more than 50 3-4", hatchery-origin juveniles in the lower Roanoke River, as well as three adult fish with hatchery marks upstream on the spawning grounds. The appearance of these adult fish indicates that the propagation program is working and that some of the fish are surviving four to five years in the ocean and then returning to where they were stocked.


Before the fry are stocked, hatchery personnel immerse the young fish in water that contains a small amount of oxytetracycline (OTC), an antibiotic that stains the ear bone. Fry stocked below the Roanoke Rapids Dam in Halifax County are

treated once to give a single mark on their otoliths while fry stocked above the dams are treated twice to give a double mark.


While overharvesting and habitat degradation have had a devastating impact on American shad  populations coastwide, the construction of a series of dams along the Roanoke River has harmed the fish as well. For this reason, Dominion North Carolina Power, which owns two of the dams, has agreed to a long-term, well-funded mitigative program as a condition of its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hydropower license. Included in this program are measures to improve fry production as well as monitor fry stocking success upstream and downstream of the dams.


Because dams prevent fish from migrating upriver to spawn, the power giant is also assessing the feasibility of providing upstream passage facilities through a capture-tag-and-release program it started this spring. Dominion personnel, working with N.C. State University researchers, are capturing American shad, fitting them with radio transmitter tags and releasing the tagged fish in upstream reservoirs.


If the shad continue migrating to the next upstream dam (as they have in other states), it may suggest that these fish could be successful in migrating on their own to reach historic spawning areas upstream of the dams if a fish ladder, elevator or some other fish passage mechanism were provided.


Lake Michigan

Hatchery fingerlings await their fate

By Kevin Naze, Special to the GLSFC

Close to 150,000 chinook salmon fingerlings awaiting release from Sturgeon Bay's Strawberry Creek are "holding their own" so far, according to Paul Peeters, lakeshore fish team supervisor of the DNR office in Sturgeon Bay.


The fingerlings are undergoing a physiological process known as smolting, during which they obtain the silvery color of an adult and are fully imprinted on the water in which they were stocked. The fish would have been released, but a state stocking hold that took effect May 16 has frozen their fate. "It's time," said Peeters. "We're starting to get a few jumpouts, but (a dozen dead ones picked up Friday) is not a significant number."


DNR fisheries supervisor Mike Staggs of Madison said the reason for the freeze is some brood stock walleyes, sauger and northern pike from lakes Winnebago and Puckaway were spawned before the state knew viral hemorrhagic septicemia was in the system. Eggs from those fish were taken to the Wild Rose, Lake Mills and Kettle Moraine state fish hatcheries, potentially infecting other species.

Testing on brood stock fish was done, and all were negative except for a batch of saugers that came back untestable from

contamination of ovarian fluid. The DNR is testing various fish species in the hatcheries and hopes to catch and test the tiny saugers in a rearing pond soon.


"It's Murphy's Law, I guess," Staggs said. "The sauger came out of Lake Winnebago, which is kind of ground zero (for inland VHS cases). We're going to test some of the production fish as soon as we can catch a sample." With the clock ticking, Staggs said the decision on what to do with the Strawberry Creek chinooks — and hundreds of thousands of other fry, fingerlings and yearlings in the three hatcheries — could be finalized any day.


Staggs said DNR fisheries personnel are working with DNR secretary Scott Hassett's office and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to come up with a recommendation for stocking this year. "It's going to be a well-reviewed decision," Staggs said.

"We definitely don't want to risk the spread of VHS, but we don't want to stupidly waste fish, either."


Fish virus may creep into area hatcheries

Officials say no 'risk-free' way of dealing with disease

By Kevin Naze, Special to the GLSFC

Even though there's no proof that a deadly virus has infiltrated Wisconsin hatcheries, it's possible that state and federal officials might recommend killing some of the fish there. "Short of not stocking, there's no way we can do this that's totally risk-free," said Mike Staggs, the Wisconsin's Fish Chief for the DNR.


The reason for Staggs' concern is two-fold: first, sauger from Lake Winnebago and walleyes and northern pike from Lake Puckaway were used as brood stock before the DNR had viral hemorrhagic septicemia on its inland lake radar this spring; and second, most of the state's fish hatcheries use water from other inland or Great Lakes waters. "The ones that have wells or onsite springs are obviously the most secure," Staggs said. "Those include Wild Rose, Nevin, Kettle Moraine Springs and St. Croix Falls."


However, two of those four — Wild Rose and Kettle Moraine Springs, along with Lake Mills — were quarantined by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection after the discovery of VHS inland because all three had received eggs from potentially infected fish.


Staggs said the DNR is expected to release more information

Monday on the current stocking freeze as well as add more waters to the emergency rules put in place after the discovery of  VHS in Lake Michigan, Green Bay and the Lake Winnebago system. "We're engaged in productive discussions on what to do with DATCP," Staggs said. "It's just a very complicated, uncertain thing. It could potentially be a few (fish killed) or it could potentially be a lot. Both scenarios are being talked about."


Staggs said the state has done a lot of testing on brood stock and hatchery fish, and continues to do so. "I'm definitely hopeful that everything will be fine," Staggs said. "The bottom line is it's millions of dollars and could be a lot of fish, but we definitely don't want to spread VHS."


The state's 13 hatcheries typically produce between 10 and 15 million fish fry, fingerlings and yearlings for annual stocking into the Great Lakes and inland waters.


Staggs said he knows what his assembled VHS response team is recommending, but said it'll be a joint decision with the DNR secretary's office and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. "These are big, tough, complex decisions," Staggs said. "At some point, we've just got to make the call."


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