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Au Sable and North Central Rivers
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Having been the dominant real estate brokerage in the sale of waterfront real estate across northern Michigan for the past 15 years, we've had the pleasure of helping 100's of people realize their dream of owning their own place Up North. Recent market inﬂuences have created conditions unlike any we've seen before. Here are some very important considerations to keep in mind if you have contemplated buying or selling a northern Michigan cottage or land. For Sellers; There's never been a better time to sell with competition for limited available properties driving values through the roof and many buyers willing to be very generous with sellers on possession and other terms. If you have a property that you simply do not utilize any more or is maybe in need of repairs that you're unwilling or unable to take care of, now is a terriﬁc time to get it in the hands of some other lucky person who will cherish the property and breathe new life into it. HomeWaters is uniquely positioned with unparalleled marketing reach and experience in this segment that allows us to achieve the best possible results for our clients. For Buyers; Don't give up on your dream of owning Up North. While the log cabin on the banks of the Au Sable River you've had in your mind's eye may be out of reach, there are still relatively reasonably priced alternatives that can allow you to enjoy everything you love to do. Shifting to an oﬀ water property or considering a tributary stream or creek are great alternatives that will still allow you to embrace northern Michigan without breaking the bank. Pooling resources with one or more family members or friends is another way to share the investment so all parties are able to realize their dream of Up North ownership while still staying on budget. Regardless of your situation, we can help guide you to the best option to suit your needs and not simply quitting on your long held dreams. Before you know it we'll all be streamside watching the evening sky for spinners. Hang in there! Hopefully we'll see you on the stream soon. Until then, give us a ring or send us a message and let us know how we can help you ﬁnd your HomeWaters.
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Nestled in the heart of the Manistee National Forest, the historic log cabins of North Rivers overlook a peaceful spring creek setting on the upper Little Manistee River. Over a quarter-mile of private riverbank offers exceptional traditional dry fly fishing for native brook, wild brown and resident rainbow trout. Centrally located in true Michigan river country, the nearby Pere Marquette, Manistee, Pine and Big Sable rivers are all just minutes away. So much water to explore! Fly fishing instruction and casting lessons for individual or group classes available upon appointment. NORTHRIVERSLODGE.COM 1853 W. Old M63, LUTHER, MI NORTHRIVERSLODGE@GMAIL.COM (231) 266-6014
Spring 2022 MICHIGAN TROUT MAGAZINE P.O. Box 442 Dewitt, Michigan 48820-8820 (517) 599-5238 email@example.com
In the state where Trout Unlimited was founded, Michigan TU will work to ensure clean, healthy streams and rivers supporting thriving populations of wild trout and salmon for future generations to enjoy.
Chairman’s Report by Tom Mundt
Conservation Tippets by Dr. Bryan Burroughs, Michigan TU Executive Director
Solid Sulphers by Ann R. Miller
Aquatic Invasive Species & Trout Streams: It’s Up to All of Us Now by Dr. Bryan Burroughs, Michigan TU Executive Director
The Science Behind Selective Fish Passage by Daniel Zielinski, GLFC Principal Engineer/Scientist
Michigan TU Chapter Updates by Joe Barker
Bring it Back, Make it Wild by Jim Dexter, Fisheries Chief—Michigan DNR
Steelhead Bag Limit Reduced in Some Lake Michigan Tributaries by Jim Schmiedeskamp
Book Reviews by Glen R. Blackwood, Great Lakes Fly Fishing Company
Clinton Valley Chapter Giving Back by Tony Saez, Clinton Valley Chapter
Here in the Upper Peninsula by Capt. Brad Petzke, Rivers North Guide Service
Watershed-Scale Habitat Reconnection by Jeremy Geist, TU Great Lakes Stream Restoration Manager
Steelhead and the Snowfly by Jeff Hubbard, Outfitters North Guide Service
ONE FLY, ONE CAST, TWO TROUT!!! by Greg McMorrow
EDITOR Joe Barker (586) 206-1414 firstname.lastname@example.org PUBLISHER/PRODUCTION DIRECTOR Ron Peckens Fisheye Internet Solutions & Hosting LLC (248) 909-2916 www.fisheyeinternet.com ADVERTISING Gregory Walz (231) 409-3345 email@example.com MICHIGAN TROUT UNLIMITED Chairman: Tom Mundt Vice Chairman: Gabe Schneider Treasurer: Robb Smith Sr. Secretary: Mike Lagowski Executive Director: Dr. Bryan Burroughs Aquatic Biologist: Kristin Thomas Past Chairman: Gregory Walz NLC Representative: Gregory Walz Development: Jim Cantril Operations & Finance: Tom Mundt Education: Greg Potter Chapter Assistance: Open Communications: Ron Peckens Conservation: Al Woody MICHIGAN TROUT is the official publication of Michigan Trout Unlimited. Copyright 2022. Issues are mailed to all members of Trout Unlimited Chapters throughout Michigan. Send all editorial correspondence to the editor. Advertising rate card is available at the following address https://bit.ly/3kPLoCf Michigan Trout and Michigan Trout Unlimited reserves the right to accept or reject proposed advertisements at their sole discretion. Magazine cover - Dave Smethurst at the Black River. Photo by Bryan Burroughs
Photo credit: Brad Petzke
Our fiscal year will close on March 31, 2022, and I want to thank our members and chapters who supported Michigan TU during fiscal 2022 by donating more than $160,000. I also send a big thank you to those who donated at least $1,000 to Michigan TU to become or remain members of the Aquifer Club, whose donations accounted for nearly 70 percent of the unrestricted funds raised during the year. Unrestricted funds provide the financial resources your team needs to tackle a broad and everchanging list of regulatory/policy issues facing
trout habitat. Examples from the past year include: •
Participating in a task force that recommended new dam safety and licensing rules and addressed funding needs.
Advocating for significant improvements to evaluate large-quantity groundwater withdrawals.
Promoting reduced seasonal steelhead harvest limits as a first step in addressing declining steelhead numbers.
With approximately 35,000 miles of coldwater streams and rivers statewide, there is more work to do than our chapters and professional staff can manage in a lifetime. To that end, TU National has established a significant and welcomed presence in Michigan by deploying a highly-talented team of specialists, who are augmenting the work being done by chapters and Michigan TU. You can read about one of these projects in an article by TU National’s Great Lakes Stream Restoration Manager Jeremy Geist, whose team replaced aging culverts and bridges along Bigelow Creek, a coldwater tributary of the Muskegon River. We are also partnering with the Michiganbased TU National team to implement its Priority Rivers Initiative. This science-based program will help prioritize future coldwater conservation/habitat projects statewide. You will hear more on this topic in future issues of the magazine. Finally, Michigan TU recently lost several leaders from the coldwater conservation/trout fishing community, including one of the founders of the Headwaters Chapter and a tireless advocate for the Pigeon River, Dave Smethurst. Dave, featured on the cover of this issue, was one of the notable Michigan TU coldwater conservationists who left us this past year. Unfortunately, to name but a few, this list also includes Denny Douglas and Ron Hamilton of the Pine River Chapter and the Mason Griffiths Founders Chapter’s Gerry Lake. All of these folks directed their passion, vision, and energy to the protection of Michigan’s unique coldwater resources. Speaking on behalf of the Executive Committee, we thank these visionaries and others like them for laying the foundation for Michigan TU’s past and future success. I hope everyone will instill these same values into the next generation of Michigan’s coldwater conservationists. Have a great winter, get outside and chase steelhead and trout or any species of green fish of your choice, and enjoy this issue of Michigan Trout.
In the policy arena, Michigan TU has developed programs to deal with invasive aquatic species such as New Zealand Mudsnails and the microscopic alga called didymo (a/k/a rock snot). These nuisance algae, which produces thick mats with the consistency of wet paper on hard surfaces in stream beds, was first identified in 2015 within the St. Mary’s River near Sault Saint Marie. Unfortunately, it has found its way into the Upper Manistee River in Kalkaska County. It is up to all of us to take the steps necessary to stem the spread of invasives. Dr. Bryan Burrough has authored an article on the topic for this issue of Michigan Trout, and TU members should be on the lookout for an upcoming “How to Prevent/Limit the Spread of” pamphlet covering these invasive species, which will be published and distributed shortly.
On behalf of Michigan TU’s Executive Committee, I wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2022. I am pleased to report that your Michigan TU team shed the shackles of COVID-19 isolation this past spring and waded feet-first into the Upper Manistee River, kicking off the first phase of a major multiyear habitat improvement plan by installing hinge-cut woody-habitat along several miles of riverbank. The team also set the stage in the summer of 2022 to remove the Murray Dam on Hunt Creek within the Big Creek watershed near Luzerne, which will improve fish passage and eliminate a significant source of thermo-pollution. We are also partnering with the Anglers of the Au Sable and numerous other stakeholders to develop a plan that will allow fish migration around the Grayling Hatchery and reconnect more than 20 miles of the East Branch of the Au Sable River with the mainstream of the Au Sable River.
by Tom Mundt
Michigan Trout Unlimited
by Dr. Bryan Burroughs, Michigan TU Executive Director NRC Commissioner Appointments
In early January, the governor made two new appointments to the Natural Resources Commission. M. David Anthony of Bark River is currently retired after owning and operating the Northern Sun Winery and serving as the director of community development and government affairs for the Hannahville Indian Community and as a state representative for the 108th House District. He holds Bachelor of Science degrees in political science and history from Northern Michigan University. Mr. Anthony is appointed to represent Democrats for a term commencing January 7, 2022, and expiring December 31, 2025. He succeeds JR Richardson, whose term expired December 31, 2021. Leslie Love of Detroit is the group director of ES and Sustainability for the Piston Group and a former state representative for the 10th House District. She was formerly a co-chair of the Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Siena Heights University and a Master of Fine Arts from Wayne State University. Ms. Love is appointed to represent Democrats for a term commencing January 7, 2022, and expiring December 31, 2023. She succeeds the late Michael Lashbrook, a TU member who passed away in 2021. Ms. Love and Mr. Anthony are joined by fellow commissioners Carol Rose, David Nyberg, Keith Creagh, Tom Baird, and David Cozad. Asian Carp Prevention Plans have been developed for preventative measures to keep Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes. These plans received support for funding from Congress but needed 20% cost-sharing from state sources. To increase the certainty and timeline of these measures being implemented, Congress is asked to waive the state costshare and fully fund the preventative measures swiftly. It’s now been about 15 years since this threat was first clearly identified, and we hope for swift implementation of control measures. Advocacy alerts were sent out through various TU channels. Dam Regulation and Investments The Michigan Legislature is considering bills to update
and improve the dam safety act and create new provisions to improve the management of dams in the state. Many of the bills’ components follow recommendations developed by the State Dam Safety Taskforce in 2021. Among the many new provisions proposed by the bills, there are provisions for increased frequency of safety inspections, new requirements for assessing design floods, providing financial assurances, and information sharing between agencies. The bills also contemplate increased funding for dams. One new tool would involve the creation of a state revolving loan program for dam repairs. Increased funding for dam removals is also contemplated. One concerning provision considered is the creation of grant programs to fund the restoration of dams. With the number of dams, and their increasing age, these state grant funds are unlikely to go far and will not stop perpetual new needs for repairs in the future; this is likely to slow the pace of certain dams that would be removed if not for the funding. Appropriations for Ground Water Science and Management At this time, bills for appropriations of funds to various programs are still in development. However, the Senatepassed bill included robust new funding to advance groundwater data and science needed to manage better water use in Michigan, including large quantity water withdrawals. This realm has been highly under-invested over the last dozen years or so, and the needs for strides in this space have become more urgent. The State Water Use Advisory Council makes biannual reports recommending the requirements for this program. At this time, there seems to be good recognition of the needs within the Legislature. The appropriations bill still needs to work through the House (at the time of writing this). Budget for the DNR The governor recently released a proposed budget for the next fiscal year and recommended encouraging investments for the Department of Natural Resources. Those include addressing a large backlog of capital improvements at state parks and within the DNR hatchery system, as well as various other needs.
All of the mayflies in the Ephemerella genus share some similarities. First, the nymphs fall into the “spiny crawler” group, possessing shortened legs, spines and tubercles on the abdomen, and plate-like gills. They inhabit gravelly substrate, crawling around and feeding on bits of detritus as they grow and develop over a single year. Sulphur nymphs are unusual in that they have two color morphs, one completely dark brown and the other more pale and yellowish-brown (see photo above). I have raised the nymphs and separated the color morphs to determine if there are any notable distinctions in the adult stage—there are not. For the bug aficionados, Sulphur nymphs have a single, wholly pale segment (#6) on the top of their abdomens, making it quick to distinguish from its Hendrickson relative, which has three pale segments (#5,6,7) on top of their abdomens. Mayflies in the Ephemerella genus have three caudal filaments or tails as adults. Tails are pale in Ephemerella invaria, subtly banded, with a touch of brown in the articulations of the tails. Another feature of the Ephemerella group is sexual dimorphism, and males and females in these species look somewhat different, not unlike some birds, such as our Northern Cardinal. The bodies of Ephemerella invaria male duns are brownish on the dorsal or top side and yellow on the bottom. Females are yellow on both sides. Colors are more intense in the spinner stage, and the fecund females can often be seen flying with a yellow egg sac protruding from their abdomens. Eyes in all mayflies are large in males and much smaller in females. The compound eye of the male Ephemerella is red to reddish-orange on the top and brownish below. Additionally, E. invaria males have nearly contiguous eyes (i.e., touching) when viewed above or when looking at them head-on. The eyes of the female E. invaria are small
and yellow. The wings in this mayfly genus are plain, without any heavy cross veining, as seen in Brown Drakes. Sulphur duns have pale gray wings when they emerge, which become completely hyaline or clear in the spinner or reproductive stage. A handy summary of the Ephemerella complex is this: nymphs in gravelly habitat, adults with three tails, plain wings, and sexual dimorphism. It’s fascinating to review the older scientific literature regarding Ephemerella invaria. In recent years much of the mayfly taxonomy has been reviewed and updated. Not long ago, another mayfly also appeared in our May hatch charts, namely Ephemerella rotunda. Early taxonomists split this species out based on bumps (tubercles) along the rear abdomen in the nymph; adults were purportedly bigger than invaria and hatched 7-10 days sooner. Pouring over old descriptions detailed minute color differences between the two closely-related species. Eventually, taxonomists agreed that the two should become one species. More recent studies have shown that there is a degree of plasticity in mayfly development and that individuals that hatch earlier in the season can be slightly larger than later hatchers, possibly due to diminished resources as the season progresses. Because Sulphurs are abundant and widely distributed, they are a joy to fish. Hatches begin in mid to late afternoon and happily can go on for some time. Spinners return to the river at dusk and again provide steady angling as females lay their eggs and males fall exhausted to the water. Yellow parachute or sparkle dun emergers in sizes 12-14 work well for hatches. As the season progresses, the mayflies get smaller, so carry a few size 16s as well. The smaller E. dorothea Sulphur does overlap as the season progresses, so be ready with size 18s in early to middle June. Understanding a little more about E. invaria will not only make you a better angler in Michigan but also in western states where the related Pale Morning Duns thrive, living in similar gravelly habits and behaving like our familiar Sulphur mayflies.
Ann Miller is the author of Hatch Guide for Midwest Streams (Frank Amato Publications, 2011; ISBN -13: 978-1-57188-481-7; $29.95). Her book is currently out of print, but she will be updating her guide at the end of 2022.
In Michigan, the month of May features morels and mayflies. Finding morels requires hours of skilled hunting with a keen eye and a good dose of luck. On the other hand, finding mayflies is simple as they abound in our rivers during May. One of the most pleasant and longlasting hatches is the Big Sulphur Mayfly, Ephemerella invaria. Big Sulphurs, also sometimes referred to as Light Hendricksons, begin emerging in mid-May on the heels of the hallowed Hendricksons, Ephemerella subvaria, our opening day hatch. Sulphurs hatch steadily into early June before the smaller cousin, Ephemerella dorothea subsp. dorothea begin their aerial entrance. Whew, that’s a lot of Latin! Let’s translate into lay terms that can be used on the river.
by Ann R. Miller
Michigan Trout Unlimited
Aquatic Invasive Species & Trout Streams: It’s Up to All of Us Now
by Dr. Bryan Burroughs, Michigan TU Executive Director
The Great Lakes have been plagued and transformed by aquatic invasive species (AIS) over the last 20-60 years: first by sea lamprey and alewife, and later by dreissenid mussels and gobies, among many others. Not every new invader finds a competitive niche and explodes, but every so often, a new AIS does with transformative impacts to our waters. Over the years, we’ve seen a few of these show up in our trout streams. Sea lamprey spawn in streams, and juveniles are raised there for several years, living in soft sediment bottom areas. Fish passage barriers and chemical treatments are employed to address the sea lamprey, often with costs to the health of coldwater fisheries in those streams. Zebra mussels have been transported into some of the reservoirs on trout streams and seem to find suitable conditions downstream of the dams. Gobies are present in many streams but, thankfully, don’t seem to thrive in healthy, intact, well-functioning coldwater stream systems. Over the last five years, we’ve seen some new AIS appearing in trout streams, and these more recent invaders seem particularly suited to the conditions. New Zealand mudsnails (NZMS) were first detected in the Pere Marquette River around the flies-only waters and subsequently in other river sections. Shortly afterward, they were seen in portions of the Au Sable and Boardman Rivers, more recently in the Upper Manistee River, and this past year in the Grass River where Shanty Creek joins it. Didymo, or “rock snot,” primarily found in the St. Mary’s River rapids, was discovered in the Upper Manistee River around Christmas 2021. These species appear well adapted to flourishing in trout stream conditions and have exploded to incredible abundances in other places. Now that they have been introduced to these rivers, only time will tell how prolific they become and how great their impact on the fisheries. Currently, there are no well-developed treatments for eradication. It is difficult to determine with certainty how these AIS were introduced into these streams. Adult NZMS can be no larger than a grain of rice, and didymo, a diatom, is far more challenging to detect. In the future, it may be possible with genetic tools to understand how these AIS found in Michigan rivers are related and to perhaps piece together a picture of where they came from and how they spread. But, for now, anglers are a major vector for spreading these AIS into streams. Regardless of where they came from initially, they are here now, and all of us are the most likely means by which they will continue to spread to new trout streams.
We must all accept the responsibility for preventing their spread. Contemplate for a moment how many anglers have enjoyed our incredible trout fisheries before us; how much effort has gone into repairing and protecting these fisheries so that they continue to be vibrant, amazing angling destinations; and how many future anglers deserve the privilege of enjoying what we have been able to. We find ourselves in a situation where simply moving between two rivers can jeopardize all that. We all must adapt routines to decontaminate our fishing gear and do so as a habit. Do you share your toothbrush with others? Do you serve food on dirty plates without washing them? We find ourselves with clear and present threats to the future of our trout streams, and we can no
www.michigantu.org longer afford to move our waders or other equipment from one river to the next without thought.
Always inspect gear after fishing, scrub off any visible debris with a stiff bristle brush, and rinse equipment with water liberally. This should be considered the first line of defense in every situation and can help the most with the least amount of effort. To prevent the transport of New Zealand mudsnails on equipment, it’s possible to use techniques involving drying, freezing, and chemical treatments. One practical and feasible chemical treatment involves liberally and thoroughly spraying waders
Taking these steps to decontaminate equipment may add some thought and time to your angling activities. Adopting a new practice is somewhat challenging to start before it becomes a routine habit. Nonetheless, these are effective and practical practices and within all of our reach to adopt. The future of trout streams may be in the hands of anglers, preventing AIS from hitchhiking from one river to another. These AIS can significantly impact our fisheries that could overwhelm any positive enhancements we have made to them. Is it worth taking an extra 10 to 20 minutes to help ensure the future of these trout streams? We all take our preciously limited vacation time to enjoy these places; are we ready to take another few minutes to ensure there are still places our grandchildren and we can enjoy? Make no mistake; this is a call to action. Make 2022 the year you begin routinely decontaminating your equipment for AIS. It’s going to take all of us to ensure our favorite places stay incredible. We can prevent the spread of these invasive species, but it has to start with each of us.
Regular household dish detergent (e.g., Dawn) has proven highly effective with liberal rinsing afterward for didymo. Felt sole waders are shown to harbor didymo significantly more than lug soles (porous felt surfaces hold moisture), so avoid using felt soles when possible.
To summarize some of the critical recommendations on decontaminating gear, we offer the following:
For some time, these new AIS threats were in a novel phase, and it was difficult to understand what decontamination practices of fishing equipment were effective and feasible. Things have caught up, and now we know. Michigan TU is finishing the publication of a decontamination guidebook for AIS, which should be arriving in mailboxes about the same time as this magazine. The guidebook disseminates the practices that have been proven to work and shares how using them individually or in combination can be crafted to suit your fishing practices feasibly. Please read it, save or share it, and encourage others to pick up a copy at their favorite sporting goods store for free or find it on our website. We will only prevent the spread of AIS to new trout streams if all anglers adopt good practices.
and equipment with Formula 409, undiluted from the concentration, bought over the counter from the store. Allow to sit on equipment for 20 minutes, then rinse off with fresh water.
Michigan Trout Unlimited
The Science Behind Selective Fish Passage
by Daniel Zielinski, GLFC Principal Engineer/Scientist
Standing on the bank, waders on, flyrod in hand, the emerging sun gently begins to lift the fog off the water and slide it downstream. My mind drifts as I recall accounts by early Great Lakes natural historians of the majestic forests and rivers teeming with lake-run fish. I drain my coffee and consider what the day will bring. While Michigan’s streams and rivers continue to provide wild places for fish and animals and remarkable spaces for people to experience the wild, like much of the nation, our waterways and habitats have been dramatically altered during the past century―they are not the same banks that George Griffith once stood on over 60 years ago when Trout Unlimited was founded. Dams and barriers are among the greatest human changes influencing our waterways. While barriers provide many valuable ecosystem services, such as hydropower, many are now legacy of past industrialization and continue to restrict native species movements, disrupt life cycles, and potentially limit fishery production. Fast forward to today, and across our nation, barriers are being removed to restore rivers to a more natural state. However, in the Great Lakes, invasive species have changed the game because connectivity between rivers and their lakes can have consequences for both desirable and undesirable species that affect ecological and human economic activity in unintentional ways—the so-called connectivity conundrum. In watersheds that face the risk of invasion by non-native species or harmful effects of co-occurring species on endangered populations, the connectivity conundrum refers to a global tension between improving passage across barriers for desirable species (i.e., connecting habitats throughout the watershed) while eliminating passage by invasive or undesirable species. Here in Michigan, the connectivity conundrum is playing out on the Boardman/Ottaway River, where a novel science-based solution, FishPass, is being developed to address the conundrum. The Boardman/Ottaway River drains 287 square miles of Grand Traverse and Kalkaska counties in Northwestern Lower Michigan. It encompasses 180 miles of perennial streams and 74 natural lakes emptying into the west arm of Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City, Michigan – traditional lands of the Aanishinaabe from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. Led by the Boardman River Restoration Project’s Settlement Agreement Implementation Team (IT), three upstream barriers, Brown Bridge (in 2012), Boardman (2018), and Sabin (2019) dams were removed, and a natural river channel was restored. A proposed modification of the last downstream barrier, Union Street Dam, to accommodate native fish passage and invasive species control, FishPass (www.glfc.org/fishpass.php) will complete one of the largest whole-river restoration projects in the nation. FishPass is the capstone of a nearly 20-year restoration project on the Boardman/Ottaway River to reconnect the river
with Lake Michigan for the first time in almost 150 years. FishPass will replace the deteriorating Union Street Dam with a new, complete barrier to all fish that will provide the ability to sort and selectively pass desirable fishes while blocking harmful invaders like the sea lamprey Petromyzon marinus (shown above), which can kill up to 40 pounds of Great Lakes fishes in its adult parasitic life stage. An international team of more than 50 fishery managers, biologists, ecologists, and engineers worked for four years to design FishPass. On the cusp of construction, this team has turned its attention to one of the project’s significant challenges: research to develop controlled sorting of native and non-native species. A sorting solution does not exist in the natural sciences. Therefore, the team has looked to other industries for inspiration. FishPass research will encompass two primary elements: (1) developing safe, effective, selective passage solutions; and (2) understanding the ecological effects of fish passage on ecosystems. Sorting Species for Selective Passage The first element of the research will occur below a complete barrier to all fish movement. The research will involve matching sorting technologies and techniques to attributes of fishes to maximize connectivity while minimizing the risk of invasive species passage. Developing a novel approach to sorting species for selective passage of fishes is complicated in several ways. At a minimum, 36 species of fish co-occur with invasive sea lamprey (the primary target for removal) during their spring spawning migrations into the lower Boardman/Ottaway River. These species differ in the timing or phenology of river use; some species undertake winter and others spring spawning migrations from Lake Michigan, while others may show opportunistic feeding forays between the lake and river. Fishes also differ in their morphology, or size and shape, their physiology, such as the ability to swim in currents or jump over obstacles, and perhaps most challenging in the context of sorting, fishes display a large diversity of behaviors. Further complicating sorting is that each attribute, especially behavior, can differ among individuals within a species. These challenges present opportunities. Many of the differences and similarities in characteristics among and within species can be quantified using available data and exploited for sorting. Boardman/Ottaway River fishes can be grouped into guilds based on similar phenological, morphological, physiological, and behavioral attributes, which can then be targeted for sorting as a group with specific tools. What tools? How will sorting work? How will we know if FishPass is successful? What happens when native fishes can swim upstream? How does restoring connectivity affect ecosystem function or growth of upstream fish
www.michigantu.org communities? These are among the questions the FishPass Science Team is tackling and that I discuss below.
The sea lamprey’s ability to attach to river substrate, like cobbles, is unique among Great Lakes fishes and has inspired research at Michigan State University, where flexible, pressuresensing smart panels are being developed to detect when a sea lamprey attaches and possibly trigger ensuing mechanisms, such as closing a gate or opening a trap. FishPass researchers are also developing an optical sorting tool that combines technologies developed nearly 3,000 years apart. First, an Archimedes screw, a technology first described in 234 BC, lifts fish out of the water and sends them down a wetted ramp where multiple highresolution images are taken (see photo). A computer analyzes, in real-time, the images and identifies the fish as desirable or not,
thereby initiating passage or removal options for that individual. Initial tests have shown such a system can correctly identify a sea lamprey with over 99% accuracy. Experimental design of the fish sorting processes has not yet been established. However, one can envision a sequence that uses screens or high flows, attachment inhibiting surfaces, and traps to iteratively remove sea lampreys or other undesirable species from an upstream moving fish assemblage. The termination of this sorting process could be an optical sorting tool to perform a final check or quality control on all fish being passed and remove any residuals that made it above the sorting gauntlet. Informed by theory, data, quantitative models, and expert opinion, the FishPass Science Team is currently working to determine the initial selection of tools and their configuration to be armed when FishPass opens for research. Evaluation and improvements to the sorting processes at FishPass will follow an adaptive management approach, an intentional scientific approach to making management decisions and adjustments in response to new information and changes in context. Management agencies regularly use adaptive management to conserve and manage aquatic species and habitats. At FishPass, this approach will play out through annual surveys of the local fish community, active monitoring of fish behavior and movement up to and through the sorting processes, and making informed adjustments to the sorting tools or configuration iteratively. Adjustments will happen both within and between migratory seasons using an automated data carriage to collect environmental data and a mobile gantry crane to make in-season adjustments to channel and equipment configuration rapidly. The sorting processes will be evaluated individually and collectively to see what proportion of available desirable and undesirable species are blocked or removed versus bypassing a sorting challenge. A portion of fish moving through FishPass will be implanted with miniature Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags, similar to pet microchips, and their movements will be tracked as they pass through a network of 20+ antennas. Paired with automated video surveillance to monitor fish leaping attempts at all barrier structures, scientists will have finescale movement data to evaluate when, where, and how fish interact with blocking or sorting technologies. A multitude of sensors will also be used to measure water velocity, turbulence, sound, light levels, and many more environmental cues that
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At our disposal are sorting tools that range in complexity from the surprisingly low-tech bar screen, which only permits passage to fish narrower than the bar spacing, all the way up to technologically advanced recognition systems, which use computer learning to identify species from a video or still image rapidly. Ongoing research inside the U.S. Geological Survey’s S.O. Conte Anadromous Fish Laboratory is seeking novel ways to sort sea lamprey from native fish, like white sucker Catostomus commersonii, based on their ability to overcome fast and turbulent water flows. By applying a thin honeycomblike material to the sides of a laboratory flume, sea lamprey are prevented from using their suctorial mouth to attach and rest (a behavior critical to their ability to move upstream against flow), making them less likely than other native fish to overcome fastflowing water during their upstream migration.
Drawing inspiration from the recycling industry, the FishPass Science Team is for the first time integrating various attribute-based sorting technologies in a realworld scenario to optimize fish sorting and ultimately to re-establish ecological connectivity between Lake Michigan, Grand Traverse Bay, and the Boardman/Ottaway River. One of the team’s first challenges is determining the order of sorting operations, where many potential configurations exist with even a small number of techniques and technologies (e.g., three sorting tools can be configured in 32 different ways). Following the example of the recycling industry, where the material is sorted first by size, a fish sorting process could target readily sortable attributes, like size, first, followed by more variable features, such as the location in the water column animals swim or responses to environmental stimuli. Like the recycling industry, redundancy will be built in because we do not anticipate each sorting tool to be 100% effective for 100% of the animals that encounter it. In this way, a fish will experience the same sorting apparatus multiple times on its journey upstream. The end goal is to consecutively and iteratively refine the assemblage of fish as they move through the fish passageway, removing undesirable species along the way and having a clean collection of desirable fishes as they reach the upstream end of the facility for controlled, volitional movement above the barrier.
The challenge of selective fish passage is fundamentally sorting an assortment of things. Sorting a stream of objects with variable attributes is not unique to fish passage. Attribute-based sorting technologies have been successfully developed in other industries, such as material recycling. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission (www.glfc.org), a binational treaty organization and FishPass lead, has for 50 years invested in the development of several technologies, such as traps, behavioral guidance (e.g., migratory pheromones – substances produced by sea lamprey that attract other adult sea lamprey), and deterrence (e.g., biological alarm cues – substances released by injured or dead sea lamprey that deter other sea lamprey) in their pursuit of invasive sea lamprey control. Other attribute-based sorting technologies like screens, computer-based image recognition, and hydraulic challenges have been developed and used in various fish passage scenarios worldwide.
Michigan Trout Unlimited
Michigan TU Chapter Updates
by Joe Barker
Clinton Valley Chapter
It has been an active six months for the Vanguard Chapter despite challenges presented by the lingering pandemic. In late summer, the Chapter completed phase II of its instream habitat improvement project on Paint Creek within the Clinton River watershed and, in the process, fulfilled the requirements of the Embrace-A-Stream grant that was secured for this multi-year project. Included in this effort were electro-shocking fish surveys with Michigan TU’s Aquatic Biologist Kristin Thomas. The Chapter also installed a stairway on Paint Creek at an access point experiencing significant bank erosion due to the heavy foot traffic on the prior pathway leading to the creek (shown in the photo above).
October thru December 2021 found the Clinton Valley Chapter working on various items. In October, the Chapter worked on a joint effort with the Michigan Fly Girls on a woman’s “Introduction to Fly Fishing” event. The event was sponsored by the Michigan Fly Girls with CVTU members as additional support to the instructors. The event taught the participants about fly rods and reels, leaders, tippets, casting, and safe wading practices.
Looking ahead into calendar year 2022, the Chapter has several conservation efforts planned, including planting native vegetation at the aforementioned angler access site, maintenance work on instream structures installed in Paint Creek in prior years, and the continuation of sediment monitoring on the creek. They are also looking forward to participating in the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo in March and the annual fishing weekend on the Au Sable River in June. Copper Country Chapter The Copper Country Chapter continues to support coaster brook trout research at Michigan Tech University. In collaboration with USFWS and Michigan DNR, 23 large brook trout were implanted with acoustic tags to track their migrations in Lake Superior and tributaries around the Keweenaw Peninsula. This information is critical to understanding coaster habitat use and identifying potential restoration strategies. CCCTU will be offering a competitive research fellowship to an Upper Peninsula college student studying fisheries or coldwater habitats. In 2021, CCCTU purchased and deployed temperature loggers in six different streams. These will be redeployed along with some additional loggers in 2022 to establish a long-term stream temperature dataset for important trout streams in the western Upper Peninsula. CCCTU also hosted a beginner fly tying class and turned out an impressive variety of woolly buggers. Additional fly tying and fly fishing workshops are planned for the coming year.
To close out 2021, CVTU, along with the participation of the Paul H Young, Challenge, and Vanguard chapters, joined together for a holiday social. This is their season-closing event in which they work to raise funds for a particular event. That event was a raffle to support The Michigan Grayling Initiative, managed by Nicole Watson. The chapters were honored to have Nicole at the social to describe her work and answer all their questions. Starting 2022, Chapter members braved the elements and worked with the Clinton River Watershed Council on a stonefly search. The activity, as always, was a great success. The Chapter will sell tickets for its 2nd Annual March Madness Raffle starting in February. This will consist of 1000 tickets for 31 days of great prizes. Check the CVTU Facebook page and website for further information. In March, the Chapter will have the drawing for its grayling raffle and set up at the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo on March 12th and 13th. Going into spring, CVTU will start with its river cleanups, classes with the Boy and Girl Scouts, and get out in the rivers for fly fishing. Fred Waara Chapter Last fall, the Fred Waara Chapter worked with the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve and Partners for Watershed Restoration to complete the Lost Creek tree planting project that was started in 2020. A combined team of more than 42 volunteers planted 1,240 native trees, including white pine, white cedar, and hemlock. Farther south, FWCTU completed another temperature monitoring season in both the Paint River and Iron River watersheds. Data from the arsenal of 39 temperature loggers are being evaluated as decisions are being made about plans for future temperature monitoring. In addition, the Chapter completed its fifth year of brush bundle work on Cooks Run. They are currently working with the DNR and Forest Service to determine whether future brush bundle
www.michigantu.org work is needed.
Looking forward, the Chapter is working on a grant to construct several creek-crossing bridges and a long boardwalk to help protect coldwater resources in the Dead River Community Forest, which the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy is developing. This project will result in a 309-acre community forest, including roughly three miles of Dead River access.
Fred Waara TU volunteers hauling trees 14 miles through the woods to Lost Creek.
This year the Charles Fellows Chapter is again sponsoring five Salmon in the Classroom tanks in three local school districts, including one each in Romeo and Grand Blanc and three in Lapeer. The Chapter is looking forward to participating in the release and sponsorship with each classroom. Their goal each year is to expand support to alleviate the entire cost of the tank and all expendable supplies needed for the season. The Chapter will once again be hosting their bi-annual Future Anglers of Michigan (FAM) two-day mini-camp in late spring. The focus is on family, fishing, and conservation. Attendees will learn fly and jig tying and fly casting and fishing, and participate in a river bug study. A portion of day one will be dedicated to a local river cleanup, while day two features a drift boat trip where both kids and adults will put their new fishing skills to the test. After taking a year off, the Fellows Chapter will be bringing back a fundraising banquet at the Redwood Lodge on March 11th. The evening will include beer tasting paired with a five-course meal. The Chapter has also worked closely with Reeling and Healing Midwest (www.fishon.org), providing volunteers and financial sponsorship. Over the past several years, the Chapter has made this an annual commitment that they plan to continue for years to come. Pine River Chapter The Pine River Area Chapter was happy to see the finalization of two bank stabilization and fish cover spots in September 2021, located on the Pine River mainstream below the Silver Creek campground. The Conservation Resource Alliance headed the project doing site plan mapping and design and permit applications. Funding for the project was made possible through multiple parties: MDNR, USWLS, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, FFF, Scientific Anglers, Pine River Association, Michigan Fly Fishing Club, Multiple TU Chapters (Kalamazoo, Challenge,
Pine River Area), and including many other parties totaling $123,450.00. Future bank restoration projects are being explored. PRATU partnered with Wexford-Missaukee Technical Center Agriscience and Natural Resource program students with a hands-on planting of seedlings for shading on Cole Creek, a small tributary of the Manistee River, where a county road crossing was closed due to the removal of a culvert. Additional plantings with the students are in the works for 2022. The Chapter polled chapter members and past banquet participants on the possibility of a 2022 Banquet. Its board has decided not to have its annual conservation banquet in May again this year due to COVID concerns and the responses to the questionnaire. PRATU will sadly miss board members Ron Hamilton and Denny Douglas, who passed away in 2021. Both served on the board for many years. A student scholarship is being planned in their memory. Adams Chapter 2021 witnessed the Adams Chapter soldier on, despite the circumstances, in the name of conservation and community engagement. The year began with the Chapter, led by past President Cory Golden and current President Liz McKellar, leading a pack of scouts from Traverse City Scout Troop #35 in fly fishing instruction, leading towards a “Fly Fishing” merit badge. In partnership with the Grand Traverse Conservation District, the Chapter also participated in spring and fall work bees at the Brown Bridge Quiet Area and Jack’s Landing on the Boardman/Ottaway River. All told, more than 25 TU volunteers participated in these efforts, which shored up approximately 50 feet of riverbank with coir logs and
...continued on page 23
Charles Fellows Chapter
Last fall, FWCTU and Two Hearted Chapters combined forces to address coldwater conservation across the eastern two-thirds of the Upper Peninsula. For the first combined project, plans are underway to evaluate the condition of and make necessary repairs to a set of fishing access steps that the Two Hearted Chapter had built on its namesake river. The project may also include some riparian tree planting to help facilitate recovery from the Duck Lake fire.
Michigan Trout Unlimited
Bring it Back, Make it Wild
by Jim Dexter, Fisheries Chief—Michigan DNR
As a pre-teen in the Detroit area and spending a significant amount of time in Lewiston, I was already a fishing fanatic. I didn’t care what I fished for or where. My neighborhood pals also fished, and we spent hours with our tackle boxes trading lures and plotting our next adventure. We grew up loving being outdoors and fishing. I don’t think any of us knew about stocked fish. Thanks to Mother Nature, we assumed what we caught was supposed to be there. My affinity for wild things punctuates who I am. As a young boy, I became enamored with wild little brook trout and their stream environments and began a lifelong journey to work managing fisheries. I have been drawn to wild fisheries my entire life and have worked alongside many other passionate professionals to do our best to ensure that they remain, improve, and proliferate. The Arctic grayling (Thymallus tricolor) was historically found in most coldwater streams north of the knuckles in the Lower Peninsula. The grayling is arguably the most iconic species the state has been known for. When the state was settled in the early 1800s, grayling were king in all the major coldwater rivers. They were there for the taking, an easy target for sport fishing and commercial exploitation, and they were wild. However, massive deforestation had devastating effects on grayling and their habitats. Coupled with excessive commercial exploitation, grayling disappeared from Michigan’s Lower Peninsula by the 1870s. One lone population remained in the western Upper Peninsula until 1936, yet it is believed that grayling were introduced there. There is something deeply profound about bringing back a species that for thousands of years called Michigan home. Think about moose and elk as examples, extirpated like grayling and now found wild in the state. Successful recovery efforts also include the Kirtland’s warbler, now off the endangered species list, and the ongoing efforts to recover lake sturgeon throughout the region. These examples all have significant meaning to Michigan residents, who understand the importance of native species in our landscapes. In 2016, I had a conversation with Troy Zorn, fisheries research biologist at our Marquette station, regarding grayling. Troy’s entire career has centered on stream research regarding coldwater species. He had learned of a successful experiment in Montana with grayling, using
in-stream remote site incubators (RSIs) to recover a handful of populations to wild status in Montana. Montana and Michigan are the only two states in the Lower 48 that grayling were native to. We had a great discussion about Montana’s work and further discussed recent investigations with grayling that the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians had been conducting. We talked extensively about the status of Michigan’s landscape and the watersheds where grayling were historically king. Watershed healing has been progressing over decades. Tremendous improvements are being made with stream connectivity, habitat work with partners, and forestry practices. In my opinion, the time was ripe for another attempt to bring back grayling to Michigan. Venturing down this path was a difficult decision initially for me. As chief, I knew that this would require additional bandwidth that we didn’t have. Flat budgets, overworked staff, and multiple projects in the queue added up to difficulty. We decided that if we were going to go down this path, it would have to be with community support, multiple partners, outside funding, and many hands pulling in the same direction. Our first move was to engage the Little River Band to partner with us, as we both knew that neither of us could make this happen on our own. I recall like it was yesterday, meeting with Frank Beaver, natural resources director for the tribe, and a few members of their tribal council. The point of the meeting was to lay out a vision for a “Michigan Arctic Grayling Initiative” in which the Michigan DNR and the tribe would be foundational partners utilizing each other’s knowledge, intuition, research capabilities, and ability to leverage resources. As I laid out a vision for this initiative, I covered the history of everything done to grayling, their habitats, habitat recovery, and the DNR’s attempt to restore grayling previously. Over the past century, Michigan had tried multiple times to recover grayling, starting in the 1880s and through the early 1990s. Fry, fingerlings, sub-adults, and adult fish were all stocked and failed. As I described the previous attempts, I must have been saying we failed too many times, as one of the council members interrupted and said no, you have been successful. You have learned what not to do. That was an inspirational moment that nailed it for
www.michigantu.org Research at Michigan State University is wrapping up. We have learned a tremendous amount about the interactions of grayling as both fry and fingerlings with brown and brook trout. This work will provide a fine point to help steer our future stream selections.
We know you can’t just stock grayling and walk away and hope they are there years later. Developing the vision took a lot of time and understanding that we were going to be in this for the long haul, which included identifying an appropriate source of eggs, rearing our own broodstock for future egg takes, evaluating RSIs in Michigan’s low-power stream environments, attaining community nominations of watersheds for potential inclusion into the program for future stocking, evaluating streams in those environments for suitability, and conducting research into competition, predation, and homing cues.
The Michigan Arctic Grayling Initiative has made great progress. As the saying goes, good wine takes time. This initiative is no different. We expect enough eggs to begin introductions, perhaps as soon as 2024, but most likely 2025. Our goal is not to create a perpetual stocking program but to slip this species back into some of its home waters and end up with wild grayling populations. Populations that Michigan’s citizens can enjoy fishing for knowing that they are just there, back home again.
Research has been conducted on RSI suitability by the Little River Band and Grand Valley State University. While RSIs can work, they present challenges due to the low-gradient tributary streams we would be looking at for rearing grayling. We continue to investigate alternative ways to incubate grayling eggs in tributary streams successfully, which will allow them to home back to these sites for reproduction. This work is currently ongoing at Marquette State Fish Hatchery in conjunction with Northern Michigan University.
The Petoskey-Harbor Springs Community Foundation is the Initiative’s fiduciary. www.phsacf.org Please visit www. MIGrayling.org for more information on this initiative.
.H e n r y +
Extensive evaluations of potential receiving waters have been conducted and are continuing. The Manistee River Watershed is complete, as is the Boardman and Maple River watersheds. All three of these watershed investigations have been worked on by our tribal partners—the Little River Band, Grand Traverse Band, and Little Traverse Band of Ottawa Indians. Our university partners have played an increasingly important role in these investigations. Stream investigations continue on the Jordan River, and we are seeking to queue up future research in the upper Au Sable watershed. Once all watershed investigations are completed, the partnership will go through a process to evaluate every tributary for meeting suitability metrics for egg, fry, and fingerling survival. Decisions will be made for where a limited number of eggs can be stocked for the best chance of success. We have no idea where this will go at the moment. We may have enough eggs to do several streams, but will that also extend to a number of watersheds? We simply don’t know yet, but we do understand that we have to be very selective to provide the best chance of success.
The Two-Hearted fly rod is designed for navigating small streams, targeting Brook Trout and angling for panfish. The rod is packaged in a vintage case, hand-crafted from reclaimed Michigan barn wood; a nod to the fly fishing pioneers of the late 19th century. www.jahenryusa.com
A quarantine building was constructed with ultraviolet light filtration at Oden State Fish Hatchery to rear grayling to near yearling size and obtain clean health certifications before transferring fish to the Marquette State Fish Hatchery, which is now home to Michigan’s first-ever grayling broodstock.
Now in our sixth full year, we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The Initiative has successfully partnered with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (AK) to obtain the necessary eggs to begin our broodstock. AK has been immensely supportive of our efforts, coordinating egg takes on the Chena River near Fairbanks. This is, of course, a 100% wild population, and outside of the pandemic year 2020, we now have two year classes of wild AK grayling in Michigan facilities. We are hopeful that we will obtain a third year class this coming May.
I can’t say enough about the strength and support of our partners. The Initiative has brought in nearly $750,000 in donations and grant support to date. Thanks to this program, four master’s students, one post-doctoral, and one Ph.D. are in progress or completed. This is your program, and the DNR and the Little River Band are your conduits to making it successful. A tremendous amount of gratitude goes to our supporters, including the Henry E. and Consuelo S. Wenger Foundation, Consumers Energy Foundation, Rotary Charities of Traverse City, The Frey Foundation, Trout Unlimited, various watershed councils, and many private donations from small businesses and private individuals.
me. I knew we had a foundational partnership that would thrive and work our hardest to succeed. In 2017, we held our first public meeting for the Initiative and since have garnered the support of over 40 organizations, universities, government agencies, businesses, and philanthropists.
Michigan Trout Unlimited Photo credit: Kevin Feenstra
Steelhead Bag Limit Reduced in Some Lake Michigan Tributaries
by Jim Schmiedeskamp
Michigan’s Natural Resource Commission (NRC) reduced the 2022 steelhead daily bag limit from three to one during the spring spawning season in selected Lake Michigan tributaries based on perceived decreasing fish populations. On December 10, 2021, the Commission unanimously approved NRC Commissioner David Nyberg’s amendment to a fishery order on bag limits in order to be proactive in addressing both documented and anecdotally reported declining steelhead populations in the Manistee River, Bear Creek (a Manistee tributary), Pere Marquette River, Muskegon River, and the Upper Peninsula’s Manistique River and Carp River. The new bag limit for the prized game fish, which applies between March 15 and May 15, went into effect on January 9, 2022. The NRC is a seven-member public body appointed by the governor and oversees the Michigan DNR, including its Fisheries Division. The Commission has exclusive authority to regulate the taking of game and sportfish through the issuance of orders. NRC Responds to Anglers and Guides According to Nyberg, growing concerns among anglers and guides regarding declining steelhead returns to Lake Michigan rivers and streams were a major factor in the decision. However, he cited as a frustration the lack of available DNR data to validate consensus observations on these trends, except for the department’s year-overyear decreasing numbers of spring steelhead collected at the Little Manistee Weir during egg harvesting. “Data from the 2021 Inland Guide Survey shows that a mere seven percent of guides indicated that steelhead fishing was ‘good’ relative to last year, while a staggering 84 percent agreed that a harvest limit reduction would help to ensure the long-term viability of steelhead populations in Michigan,” said Nyberg. “Similarly, 84 percent of guides agreed that a regulatory change to reduce the daily possession limit would benefit their ‘home water,’ resulting in the conclusion that increased fishing pressure and increased harvest of steelhead were perceived as the greatest threats among inland guides.” Nyberg confirmed that one idea discussed by the Commission was the potential merit of a no-kill regulation for wild versus stocked hatchery steelhead (identified by a clipped adipose fin) to promote the natural recruitment of wild fish. Recruitment is the number of fish born within a given period that survive to the juvenile stage. However, this proposal for taking only stocked hatchery steelhead was defeated in a 3-3 vote among NRC commissioners, although both Fisheries Division staff and non-department biologists found merit in tailoring the regulation to wild/naturalized fish. Michigan TU Says It’s Both a Fish and a Fishing Issue “Steelhead are seeing increasing stress and declines in much of their native range, and now that concerning trend has become more apparent here in Michigan as well,” says Dr. Bryan Burroughs, executive director of Michigan TU. “Though times have been good for steelhead in our state in the past, it is clear that we are now in a
different and more tenuous condition with them that warrants more attention and resources allocated toward their management.” “While DNR Fisheries Division staff have asserted to the NRC that the new regulation is unnecessary because it may not increase the number of fish, we find that to be a secondary consideration also worthy of future discussion and research,” said Burroughs. “The key here is that if we are indeed stuck with fewer fish, how do we balance between anglers who are currently dissatisfied with their ability to catch steelhead--for example, the number caught per unit of fishing effort--and anglers who would be dissatisfied with reduced opportunity to harvest multiple steelhead per day.” “We have a fish problem, and we need honest investment to understand and address this issue,” explained Burroughs. “As a result of this fish problem, we have a fishing problem that must be dealt with under the proposed new bag limit. While this proposal may or may not help with the fish problem, it certainly will not harm the fish, giving us time to learn and assess whether it helps. The fishing problem is one of, perhaps temporarily, making do with less, to invest in our future.” Fisheries Division Agrees to Seek More Data According to Jim Dexter, Michigan DNR Fisheries Division Chief, “the Fisheries Division questioned the inclusion of some of the river systems in this regulation packet and was hoping for continued discussion to air these concerns and more broadly gauge angler attitudes towards the regulation. In general, the Fisheries Division would support bag limit changes for steelhead if there was justification and alignment with public concerns. It is our professional opinion that reductions in the harvest of adult steelhead will not alleviate recent declines in fish returning to rivers. Conditions in Lake Michigan have changed significantly since 2003, creating survival issues for stocked and wild steelhead smolts. When smolts leave the river and enter the lake, they are subjected to increased predation pressure and competition for resources.” “On our more northern rivers, the number of age-1 steelhead captured in electrofishing surveys on the Pere Marquette River, Little Manistee River, and Bear Creek fluctuate from year-to-year but have not consistently trended downward, indicating no obvious changes in long-term habitat conditions or adult spawning success,” said Dexter. “Our modeling of lake-wide population estimates show steelhead numbers slightly below the long-term average in recent years.” A statistical catch-at-age model was recently developed by Fisheries Division staff; the model allows for a lake-wide prediction of the steelhead population in Lake Michigan. The lake-wide statistical catch-at-age model integrates comprehensive data collected in all states throughout the Lake Michigan watershed, not just an individual river system. The magnitude of steelhead population fluctuations in the 1980s far surpassed the implied recent declines, with the lowest population estimates occurring in 1988 at 2.4 million and the highest estimate in 1984 at over five million fish. “While there has not been a consistent decline or trend in
www.michigantu.org population estimates, it is fair to say that recent estimates are slightly below the long-term average over the recent four years,” said Dexter. “By comparison, population estimates for chinook salmon do show a precipitous decline in recent years that is largely reflective of stocking reductions.”
Steelhead and Chinook Salmon Catch-at-Age Model Estimates (1967-2019)
“In addition, the Fisheries Division supports the passage of Michigan House Bill 5359, which would require inland fishing guide businesses to report their catch and supply vital information that will inform management discussions and recommendations,” said Dexter. “We also continue to encourage anglers to turn in heads from tagged fish that are harvested to increase our tag return sample size while all steelhead are marked in both Lake Michigan and Huron. Our researchers are also currently seeking additional funding to better understand survival bottlenecks for out-migrating steelhead in rivers.”
Feedback from guides with over 20 years of fishing the affected rivers was consistent on the need for reduced bag limits with recommendations that ranged from no wild steelhead kept yearround to a one-fish bag limit for any fish (wild or stocked) caught year-round. Manistee River and Bear Creek: Ray Schmidt is a semi-retired guide who has fished the Big Manistee River and Bear Creek tributary for 45 years. Schmidt advocated a more aggressive reduced steelhead limit of one fish per day year-round. Schmidt helped lead a group of guides in educating angler clients regarding their perspective on declining steelhead numbers through meetings, mailings, and social media efforts. Muskegon River: Jay Allen has been a guide for 25 years and lives on the river. “I’ve seen six times the number of boats on the Muskegon River over the last five years,” said Allen. “The Muskegon is not a natural steelhead fishery and needs to be managed differently from other rivers, which have more natural reproduction. I believe part of the survival issue with smolts has to do with thermal issues related to climate change.” Allen feels that the declining steelhead fishing opportunities will negatively impact the guide business and area lodging and dining businesses. As the owner of the recently opened Muskegon River Inn in Newaygo, Allen has an additional sensitivity regarding the future of the local steelhead fishery and its economic impact on local businesses.
Source: Jory Jonas, Michigan DNR Fisheries Division “We will continue to monitor steelhead on Lake Michigan annually, as we have for decades,” said Dexter. “We will also be reaching out to our angling community to better understand their experiences and thoughts on the issue. Our current plan is to conduct creel surveys on the Manistee and Muskegon rivers in 2023 – possibly starting in October of 2022. This will allow time for funding to be put in place and to give the mass marking study another year to add clipped and tagged steelhead to these systems to maximize our data returns.” The marking study began in 2018 for Lake Michigan stocked steelhead and salmon. Great Lakes states and tribes, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, annually stock millions of salmon and trout to restore native fish populations, diversify sport fisheries, and control invasive forage fishes. However, little is known about how well these fish survive, contribute to the fisheries, and reproduce in the wild. The USFWS coordinates with state, tribal, and federal
Pere Marquette River: Walt Grau has been a Pere Marquette guide for 40 years and notes a lower steelhead catch rate during the past ten years while fishing pressure has increased over his four decades on the river. Walt advocates for a limit of one steelhead per day all year, not just the March 15 to May 15 season, as the actual spawning period for steelhead is longer and varies by river. Jeff Hubbard has guided the PM for 25 years and says the river is a wild steelhead fishery and never understood why wild fish were allowed to be killed. Jeff supports a year-round limit of one steelhead per day outside any specific no-kill areas like the Pere Marquette River’s seven-mile “flies-only” section, which features prime spawning gravel. Upper Peninsula Carp and Manistique Rivers: Brad Petzke has been guiding steelhead trips in the Upper Peninsula for 20 years, including the Carp and Manistique Rivers. He advocates for a reduced year-round bag limit of one steelhead and a more proactive commitment by the DNR to collect data, including creel surveys, which he feels would be easy on the 22-mile-long Carp River. Petzke’s experience is that 98 percent of steelhead caught in the Carp River are wild fish and feels stocked muskies and walleye create additional predation pressure for smolts making their way to Lake Michigan.
Guides Agree on Need for Lower Bag Limit
The DNR currently stocks steelhead yearlings in the affected Michigan rivers as follows: Carp River—13,100; Manistee River—34,000 Skamania strain and 51,000 Michigan strain; Manistique River— 8,250; Muskegon River—59,900. Bear Creek, a tributary to the Manistee, and the Pere Marquette River, do not receive any steelhead stockings. However, the South Branch of the Pere Marquette does get 10,900 yearlings per year.
The Fishery Division estimates 1.3 million chinook in 2010, declining to 0.5 million fish in 2019 with the highest estimates around 17 million fish in 1984. Graphs exemplify the point.
hatcheries to insert a coded wire tag (CWT) and clip the adipose fin for all salmon and trout stocked in the Great Lakes to meet this information need. This “mass marking” of all fish stocked is the only technique that allows managers to learn the effectiveness of their stocking efforts, determine how much wild fish contribute to the fish community and fisheries, and balance the predator abundance to the prey fish available.
Michigan Trout Unlimited
by Glen R. Blackwood, Great Lakes Fly Fishing Company
Two titles have drifted across my reading desk recently. While these books have entirely different focuses, both are based upon observational awareness of the natural world. These authors, one making his debut (Jac Ford) and the other award-winning (Jerry Dennis), have shared their observations in a fashion that the reader will benefit from, whether fly fishing from a drift boat or simply reading for pleasure. The View from the Middle Seat Jac Ford describes himself as a “guide” throughout his new book, The View from the Middle Seat. Many other terms come to mind as you read his recently released work. For me, most have an educational slant. “Mentor,” “teacher,” and “instructor” are all apt, only I prefer “coach,” and this work is his personal playbook to angling success, which he has graciously shared. To say that Jac is just a guide is like saying Sparky Anderson was just a baseball manager. Just as Sparky was a student of the game with the Big Red Machine and the Detroit Tigers on the baseball diamond, Jac is a student of fly fishing. His success is achieved through observing, prioritizing fundamentals, and a lifetime of in-game adjustments, albeit on a different playing field than Tiger Stadium. This is Jac’s first book, but his reputation as an angler and guide is far-reaching, as is apparent by the book’s forward written by George Daniels and the dust jacket’s reviews from Kevin Feenstra, Kelly Galloup, Joe Humphries, and Mike Schmidt. Jac was an angler before his second career as a fly fishing outfitter and guide in Michigan and Montana. His early experiences of Michigan angling and western spring creeks and the skill set that these waters require honed his current observational and detailed approach to trophy fish angling, as the book contains chapters on warm water species as well, such as smallmouth bass, northern pike, and muskies. Jac mentions that he pondered a book on spring creek fishing; I hope that will be his next project. Jac’s voice, both in person and in his writing, is one of
quiet confidence. His words are poignant and are chosen for his meaning. While I would categorize this title as a technical fly fishing book, the text flows more like a boat launch conversation. Throughout, he regales stories from past trips and clients. These tales are written as if parables to teach a specific lesson. The words are not preachy, only steadfastly describe the author’s viewpoint: a point of view that is not cemented in angling past but has developed over time and continues with each day he spends in the middle seat, an example being his use of modern technology as it relates to weather. As a rule, I do not carry a smartphone with me when fishing. Jac uses his as a tool to watch the weather as an indicator of “bite windows.” Another example of the author’s stepping into the future is the book’s collections of fly patterns from modern innovative fly tyers he follows both in-person and online. Yet, at the same time, Jac pays homage to the past with a discussion of lessons learned from the likes of Will Godfry, Joe Humphries, and Bob Linsenman. I found this blend of old school versus new school refreshing and enjoyable. In a world where self-published books are becoming the norm, and quality production seems a bye-gone attribute, this title is well designed and professionally crafted. Printed in the United States, the resolution of the book’s images are crisp and add to the reader’s overall pleasure, as do the original paintings that illustrate the book’s pages by talented sporting artist David Ruimveld. David utilized watercolor techniques and paper with black paint to achieve a unique washed tone that my eye found appealing. While the book’s theme regards the pursuit of trophy fish on a fly rod, the underlying theme throughout is conservation. The author brings his conservation message to the forefront in a sound and respectful fashion. It is subtle at times and louder in the afterword. His sentiments ring true and should be read and pondered by all. Reading and rereading Jac Ford’s manuscript in preparation for this review sent me back to my formative fly fishing years. My grandfather and other fly fishing mentors taught me not only the fundamentals of casting
Up North in Michigan
Up North in Michigan is not a fly fishing book like the author’s previous works, A Place on the Water and The River Home. This title is a seasonal study of Michigan’s water, waves, and weather. Our night skies, berry patches, bird migrations, two-tracks, trails, and much more, a contemplative discussion of Northern Michigan’s large landscapes and natural nuances. No matter the season, this book will be savored and entertain the reader, whether at home, camp, or cottage. Observations can be both strategic and soulful, assisting the reader’s growth in either skill or mind. These two books are examples of both. Written by authors whose observations are the foundation of their messages, books that, as my grandfather, James Glen, taught me, will develop your “water eyes.”
The View from the Middle Seat: Lessons Learned From a Lifetime of Guiding By Jac Ford Published by Jac Ford, Country Anglers 2021 $34.95 Up North in Michigan: A Portrait of Place in Four Seasons By Jerry Dennis Publisher University of Michigan Press 2021 $24.95
fish rely on for navigation. Based on high-resolution, continuous fishway monitoring data, the FishPass Science Team will adjust and move sorting tools around in a “plug-and-play” manner to maximize the number of desirable fish and minimize the number of undesirable fish reaching the upstream end of the sorting channel. This iterative process will have substantial latitude for testing as all sorting will occur below a barrier to all fish. In other words, no fish will be allowed to pass during the project’s research phase volitionally. Such latitude in the experimental process will enable trials to “fail” without putting any part of the watershed at risk and allowing scientists to learn and improve future iterations of the sorting process. Over ten years of dedicated research, optimizing sorting will lead to the optimal configuration identified to provide long-term selective fish passage in the Boardman/ Ottaway River. Fishery Management Decisions Once the passageway is optimized for sorting, a clean stream of desired fishes that makes it to the upstream end of FishPass will be allowed (via lowered gates or an automated fish lift) to continue on their journey upstream to complete their life cycle and subsequently pass back downstream to Lake Michigan. FishPass will become a functional fishway, reconnecting the Boardman/Ottaway River to Lake Michigan. While debate still exists about what species are “desirable” and warrant passage, one thing is certain—nobody wants sea lamprey passed. For the duration of the research phase, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has agreed with the project partners that only species native to the Great Lakes shall be considered for limited, controlled passage. Ultimately, the decision of what species are provided access into the Boardman/ Ottaway River is independent of FishPass and will be made by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and the MDNR, with input from citizens and angler groups. However, regardless of the management decisions that are ultimately made, FishPass, and FishPass alone, provides the opportunity to have many alternatives on the table and engage in data-driven decision making. The adaptive management process being implemented will allow for science-based decisions about passage targets and goals in light of management objectives for the Boardman/ Ottaway River. Indeed, without FishPass, managers have no tools to resolve conflicts over desirable passage or control invasive species—the connectivity conundrum. Typical fishways are often selective for jumping or strong-swimming species, such as Pacific salmonines, over native fishes that have not evolved to leap over barriers, and have no controls for invasive species passage. Other than labor-intensive trap-and-sort fishways that include manual hauling of fish upstream to bypass a barrier, no solutions exist for the dual challenge of restoring connectivity for native fish restoration and simultaneously controlling invasive species. This is the global challenge being addressed at FishPass. A whole-river restoration takes incredible commitment and strong partnerships led by the City of Traverse City, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and MDNR, among many other project partners. A project on the scale of a whole river takes considerable financial investment made possible by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, State of Michigan, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Great Lakes Fishery Trust, Consumers Energy, and many local contributors. In closing, on behalf of these great partnerships, much like George Griffith and the other founding members of TU, I look forward to the day the first runs of native lake-run fish ascend the Boardman/Ottaway River for the first time in more than a century.
Through his essays, you see the author not only as a writer but a compassionate human. Passages introduce his family, friends, and strangers along the way, including a groom-to-be, stranded, stuck in a snowbank, and late to his wedding. Yet, the reader will understand his value of solitary time afield.
continued from page 11
While Jerry Dennis’s newest release, Up North in Michigan: A Portrait of Place in Four Seasons, is not an angling book, his latest collection of seasonal essays deserves discussion. This compilation of Michigan-originated natural history observations is simply delightful. His eye for finding an interesting speck in Michigan’s waters, flora, and fauna, and then painting the environment’s detail through his words, I find personally impactful. “Water,” “flowing,” “still,” and the Great Lakes are reoccurring topics throughout this read, as is the pursuit of the fish that live in them. Other topics include birding, canoeing, hiking, and overall outdoor exploration.
The Science Behind...
and knots but also the importance of observation. My grandfather described it as “water eyes.” They also taught me that attention to the fine details of angling gives you a chance to hook and land a fish that others may squander. By reading and taking in Jac Ford’s thoughts and tips presented in The View from the Middle Seat to heart, your on-stream squanderings will diminish, and your “water eyes” will improve.
Michigan Trout Unlimited
Clinton Valley Chapter Giving Back
by Tony Saez, Clinton Valley Chapter
As we slowly start to work ourselves back into some normalcy because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Clinton Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited (CVTU) found ways to stay focused and move forward. One such way was the 2020 Veterans Appreciation Weekend. This event was created with the objective of selecting eight local military veterans within the boundaries of the CVTU, no matter which branch of service or period of service. The board wanted the veterans to be individuals who had little to no fly fishing experience who would like to learn, as well as have an interest in environmental conservation, as both items are a driving force for TU. The 2020 event was a tremendous success, which brought pleasure to the CVTU membership, its board, and, more importantly, the veterans themselves. Based upon the event’s success, a motion was presented and approved to have the event for the 2021 fishing season. The process was the same as the previous year. We started by encouraging the membership to contact friends and family who were veterans or who still serve with no fly-fishing experience but who may be interested in the sport and the conservation message of TU. The Veterans Appreciation Weekend was an all-expenses-paid event located on the Pere Marquette River, which included two days of fishing. One was a full-day guided float trip, and the second day was a wade trip with CVTU volunteers. The veterans were also provided lodging, food, fly fishing equipment, and a oneyear membership to TU. The Clinton Valley Chapter used funds from the previous year’s holiday social to fund the event, but due to the pandemic, the 2020 event did not take place. CVTU had to find funding to have the event. This task was taken on and completed through arduous work by the chapter’s Veterans Committee with the support of our CVTU membership. The event kicked off with arrival on Friday. As with a new event, introductions are a major
part. The CVTU volunteers met the veterans, and all had great conversations. The great thing for us to see is how the veterans intermingled and talked. Veterans from the various branches started with the standard “smack talk,” which is part of the fun, but you also see the mutual respect for one another. Through the discussions, many of the veterans found out they were “in country” at the same time and fought in the same cities despite being from different branches. In the end, they all sacrificed, some more than others, to ensure that the nation was and continues to be a safe place. Once everyone had settled in, the veterans were given a casting lesson using their new Orvis Clearwater combo fly rod. That coincided with dinner and a meeting, which consisted of a meet and greet with the veterans as well as five CVTU members, who were the weekend hosts. The social hour went well into the night with stories and laughter. Some stories were not so great or funny, but the thought of having others there who had experienced the same and others who appreciate what had been done
www.michigantu.org seemed to make it all worthwhile.
CVTU members explained how the event came about and gave a good description of what TU represents. Saturday consisted of morning breakfast, and then the Veterans met with their Baldwin Bait and Tackle guides and headed off for the day. They returned to a great meal and a campfire that brought about the ever-present fishing stories. Sunday consisted of the same great schedule. All our veterans had a great weekend and, most importantly, left knowing that they were and are appreciated by CVTU and their community for the services that they performed for our nation.
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All royalties/profits going to the Vanguard Chapter of Trout Unlimited. $19.95 plus shipping. www.vanguardflytying.com
Art Neumann Portrait Fundraiser In honor of Art Neumann, Michigan Trout Unlimited icon & 1st Executive Director of Trout Unlimited, Michigan TU has commissioned a beautifully created portrait of him by local artist, Danielle V Shanks. For future work, contact Danielle at: firstname.lastname@example.org. This portrait is being offered in two editions: •
The Limited Edition 13”x17” giclée, “100 year” archival matte paper, signed & numbered, 100 copies only, $75 donation.
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All donations will be used to fund the Art Neumann Memorial Fund, funding Youth Education & Diversity Initiatives, currently the Women’s Initiative. Order your edition by visiting the Michigan Trout Unlimited website @ www.michigantu.org/ artneumannportrait.
A memoir about fishing and associated adventures and misadventures by TU member and Michigan Trout editor Joe Barker.
Although we are not qualified to help with veterans’ physical and psychological healing, we are a group of people who care about our rivers, fly fishing, community, and, most importantly, our veterans. I encourage each chapter to develop an event that reaches out and thanks our veterans.
The work was not easy, and it took a great deal of coordination, but for those of us who worked on the event, it was extremely rewarding and one that needs to occur every year. The Clinton Valley Chapter will continue working on this event and is already planning the 2022 Veterans Appreciation Weekend.
Michigan Trout Unlimited
Here in the Upper Peninsula
by Capt. Brad Petzke, Rivers North Guide Service
Here in the Upper Peninsula, the variety of fishing options is overwhelming at times. Most anglers think of native brook trout in small spring-fed streams when the UP comes to mind. Very understandable since Hemingway and Voelker put the UP on the fly fisherman’s map with tales of these trout and the streams they inhabit. But over my lifetime in the UP, I have tried to think outside of the box to come up with different ideas on how and where to spend my time fly fishing this beautifully unique place I call home. Outside my door, the world’s largest freshwater lake is looking at me, inviting me to figure out my next move. Lake Superior is a very intimidating body of water, to say the least. At an average depth of 1,332 feet, most think it is not an ideal place to cast a fly rod. In addition, it is widely known as the world’s most deadly freshwater lake. More often than not, the weather forecast is quite inhospitable for boating. All of this makes it even more appealing to me; anything this challenging has to offer some huge rewards. So, where to begin when starting to fly fish on Lake Superior? Well, best to figure out what species you want to target. Lake Superior offers a wide variety of species to choose from—lake trout, steelhead, Coho salmon, splake, brown trout, and coaster brook trout are what I am looking for. All these fish call Lake Superior home and sometimes can be found in the same habitat if conditions are right. My favorite months of the year to fish Lake Superior are April, May, September, October, and November. During these times, water temperatures are ideal for fish to be close to shore or near the surface on depth breaks. Baitfish, such as smelt, are near shore in spring, bringing many fish close to the surface. This is usually when the widest variety of species is available. These fish take full advantage of the smelt, which is prime time for the angler. Many times, smelt will hang out where there is a pronounced depth break, where the shallow water plummets into the deep blue water. Working these drop-offs with streamers is very productive. Trout and salmon will hunt this zone, ambushing schools of baitfish. River and creek mouths are also obvious places to target. Smelt are moving in and out of these areas daily in the spring, and it is an easy place to find a meal if you are a fish in Lake Superior. Many times, these river mouths are shallow, so proceed with caution. This can be done on foot or by boat. Fish can be spooky in this skinny water, so make good casts right away so as not to blow an opportunity in the crystal-clear water. Shoreline habitat such as underwater boulders and rubble is a good place to target as well. Finding this type of structure in four to twenty feet of water will hold fish because it holds baitfish. There are many areas that baitfish can hide in this type of habitat and many types of bugs that the baitfish feed upon. Spend time looking for these areas versus the flat rock bottom zones. Trout periodically move across the flat areas, but they call the other habitat home.
When it comes to equipment, I tend to carry several rods with varying fly lines. On certain days, I will find fish feeding on the surface, and on others, the fish will be deep. I am typically fishing 9-foot, 8-weight rods on Lake Superior. These rods cast a mile in all types of conditions and put the fly where it needs to be. Keeping one rod lined with a floating line is necessary because fish will occasionally take bugs off the surface, and you need to be ready for this opportunity. I always carry a Scientific Anglers Sonar sink 25, cold 200-grain sink-tip line. This is a super versatile line that can be used at various depths. Depending on where you are fishing, you also want a 250 or 300-grain in the SA Sonar. I also periodically use a clear intermediate sinking line, nice for shallow areas or fish feeding right below the surface. As for leader material, I usually run a straight section of four to six feet of 12 lb. fluorocarbon leader. There is no reason to run any smaller diameter as it is completely invisible. Running a smaller diameter risks break-offs. Using a high-quality disc drag reel is necessary as you will frequently hook a very silver, fresh steelhead, which will make quick work of you if not fully prepared. When picking a fly pattern, size and profile are the most important aspects—matching whatever baitfish is present is critical to success. Typically, the best option is streamers tied on size 4 to 8 hooks and around three to five inches in length. Having fly fishing success is being at the right place at the right time; this is very much true with Lake Superior. Getting an accurate weather forecast can be frustrating at times. But when it all comes together, it is one of the most beautiful places you can ever ask for to spend a day fishing!
www.michigantu.org Chapter Updates...
continued from page 13
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resulted in the planting of 350 trees and shrubs in the bottomlands of the former dam sites.
The Chapter also sponsored its own major project, in partnership with MITU, USFWS, and the MDNR Forest Management & Fisheries Division, on the North Branch of the Boardman/Ottaway River. Led by past Conservation Committee Chair Mike Sipkoski and Board Director Steve Largent, the Chapter completed work on remediating an abandoned sand trap on the North Branch. This project entailed shoring up approximately 225 feet of the riverbank and planting 500 native trees and shrubs.
Despite canceling its major fundraising dinner for the second year in a row, the Chapter raised $3600 in donations via a 45-day online auction. ACTU also distributed $3500 in conservation grants for the year; $1000 to the Boardman River Clean Sweep to police the Boardman/Ottaway River of garbage and waste, and $2500 to the Conservation Resource Alliance in support of stream connectivity projects in the Platte River watershed.
Miller-Van Winkle Chapter Tip of the Mitt members with the Miller-Van Winkle Chapter in Emmet and Charlevoix counties continue to find ways to work around and through the challenges of the pandemic, offering additional programs for youth and changing up their regular fly tying nights to present programs virtually. In August, immediate past President Ed Davis represented the group, assisting junior anglers in collaboration with the Little Traverse Conservancy, an ongoing partnership between the two organizations, to encourage young people to learn how to fly fish, as well as appreciate their proximity to local blue-ribbon streams. This is the fourth year of the partnership. In addition to continuing this successful event, the two organizations are meeting to identify more ways to work together, including hosting an all-female workshop this coming summer. The Chapter will again participate in the annual Fathers and Sons Weekend hosted by Camp Daggett on Walloon Lake, where members will teach fly tying to participants. In addition, plans are underway to conduct a youth day at the Oden State Fish Hatchery in May, as well as continue to assist with Petoskey Middle School’s Fishing Club, and again help local elementary students with their annual Salmon in the Classroom program. Another annual event from this past September was the Chapter BBQ fundraiser and silent auction held on the banks of the Bear River just outside downtown Petoskey. Members and guests enjoyed a delicious BBQ lunch, practiced casting accuracy, and swapped gear. The annual event targeted funds raised through a silent auction to the Chapter’s ongoing efforts to monitor stream temperatures on the Maple River downstream of the former Lake Kathleen Dam site. The Chapter has recently re-established two working committees, one for conservation and one for education, to better address needs in these two critical areas of ongoing projects. Each committee is working to establish both goals better, lay out strategic plans for achieving these goals, and include other local non-profit partners.
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Michigan Trout Unlimited
Watershed-Scale Habitat Reconnection
by Jeremy Geist,TU Great Lakes Stream Restoration Manager
By now, many of us are aware of the problems when roads and streams meet. The stream’s flow regime and other natural processes, such as sediment and organic matter transport, are impacted if the culvert it flows through is too small. Additionally, fish and other aquatic organism passage is restricted by the often-increased water velocities associated with undersized culverts (think of when you place a thumb at the end of a water hose). Threats to the structural integrity of the road and the culvert occur if the road/stream crossing is inadequate. Increased pressure during high flow events (large amounts of rain that are increasingly becoming more common) upstream of the crossing (ponding) poses a risk to the stability of the crossing and, in worst-case scenarios, can lead to road failure. Additionally, increased water velocities through the culvert (or bridge structure) can cause scour, further threatening road stability. Overall, poorly designed or failing road/stream crossings threaten the health of both streams and roadways. These poorly designed and failing road/stream crossings are ubiquitous across the landscape. Recent studies show that there are 38 times as many road crossings as dams in the Great Lakes region, and roughly two-thirds are partially or wholly impassable to fish. Therefore, river habitat is fragmented by road systems. Since fish need access to multiple habitat types in a river system throughout the year and during their life span, our road networks are likely negatively impacting fish populations. Since problematic road/stream crossing are so common, how does one prioritize efforts and resources to help alleviate the issue? This question is not easily answered and is influenced by a multitude of factors from both an infrastructure and fisheries perspective. Some of those factors include available funding, quality of the river/status of the fishery, existing road and culvert conditions, partners’ willingness to assist, common interests of partners, and priorities. TU has been working to help identify areas and watersheds to direct efforts and improve river/habitat connectivity across the Great Lakes region. For example, through a comprehensive prioritization strategy that includes multiple partnerships, watershed-scale habitat reconnection efforts have been taking place over the last seven years in Bigelow Creek (Muskegon River tributary) and Hinton Creek (Manistee River tributary). These two tributaries are highquality coldwater streams that support robust brook and other wild trout populations. In addition, there is overlapping
interest and priorities within these watersheds for both road and habitat improvement resulting in a multi-partnership effort to replace failing or inadequate culverts. Since 2016, TU and the USDA Forest Service – Huron Manistee National Forest, Muskegon River Watershed Assembly, MDNR, the Newaygo County Road Commission, Wexford County Road Commission, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and many other partners have been working in the Bigelow Creek and Hinton Creek watershed to address problem road/stream crossings. To date, six road/ stream crossings have been improved, reconnecting over 25 miles of coldwater habitat in Bigelow Creek. At Hinton Creek, seven road/stream crossings have been improved, reconnecting over 15 miles of habitat. The project teams are planning to replace one or two more crossings during 20222023 over Hinton and Bigelow Creeks, which will result in the complete reconnection of both watersheds. Complementing this effort and others around the region and nation, the recent passing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will significantly increase the availability of funds for continued culvert replacements in the coming years. This act will result in an unprecedented investment of $1.2 trillion in infrastructure projects, delivering a major shot in the arm to trout and salmon conservation efforts across the country. Up to $1 billion will be made available nationally to federal agencies and state governments for programs that can be used to remove, replace, and restore culverts that fish cannot pass, and tens of millions of dollars for collaborative approaches to restoration of rivers and streams. The Act also contains significant investments in some of TU’s highest priority watersheds, including the Great Lakes region. TU’s longstanding and effective relationships with the agencies will help ensure that these resources produce major results for trout and salmon. Finding the overlap between infrastructure and river restoration priorities fosters multi-partnership efforts to improve both road and stream systems. This combined interest results in more resources allocated towards improving these intersections of roads and streams and, overall, helps improve conditions regarding flood resiliency, road integrity, and ecosystem health. To stay up to date on Trout Unlimited’s Great Lakes Program, follow us at facebook.com/GreatLakesTU and instagram.com/troutunlimitedgreatlakes
Steelhead and the Snowfly
If you’re a steelhead angler, you have already been out there braving the elements. You trek through the knee-deep snow looking like Ralphie’s little brother in the movie A Christmas Story. You’re praying you don’t start sweating because if the sweat begins, the cold sets in for the rest of the day. I understand that winter fishing isn’t for everyone; it’s cold, and chipping ice out of the rod all day gets a little old. I enjoy it though because as a full-time river guide, it’s when I get to spend time on the river with a rod in hand chasing after this magnificent game fish. When winter does start to loosen its grip, a hatch begins to occur on the Pere Marquette River. This hatch is something every steelhead angler should take advantage of. It isn’t a tiny little, microscopic midge fly but the little bigger, much more prevalent Little Black Stonefly. (Capniidae family- Allocapnia granulata) When temperatures start to warm, the river jumps up in water temperature, and these crawling little stoneflies begin to emerge. These are the first stoneflies of the year, and some anglers refer to them as the Winter Snowfly. In their adult stage, you can spot the stoneflies crawling around on the snow as early as January. The peak of this hatch usually occurs from late February through April. In those late winter months, you usually don’t see trout feeding on these adult bugs on the surface. The trout’s metabolism is too slow with the cold winter water. Later in the spring, they will feed off them on top. Under the surface is a different story, this nymph is very abundant, and you should be fishing it for steelhead and trout in the winter and spring months. Since I started fly fishing and fly tying, this pattern has been in my fly box. This steelhead fly requires a little bigger presentation and hook. A heavy wire hook in size 6 or 8 works well; you don’t want a simple trout hook, it’s usually too light. You don’t want a simple trout hook. It’s usually too light. It will bend out on a steelhead; they just have too much attitude. The first steelhead I ever landed took a stonefly nymph out of a pool on the Rogue River in Rockford, Michigan, on a day in late March. Stoneflies are abundant on many West Michigan rivers, from free-flowing to tailwaters. Rivers as big as the Muskegon and as quaint as the Pere Marquette will see this hatch. If the river bottom has gravel and rocks, it probably has stoneflies. Focus more on fishing the little nymphs when air temps rise above the freezing mark and it becomes a sunny day. If you have snow at this time, just the sun’s reflection off the snow will warm the edges of the river even more, getting stoneflies to start crawling and
emerging. My preferred method is using a strike indicator set-up for fishing eggs and nymphs. Usually, I run an egg fly and a Little Black Stone as the dropper fly. In the winter months, when the water is cold, steelhead love to focus on the slower pools. They don’t want to work too hard in the colder water temps. This fly under a float works well in that you can slow the speed down and fish it off the bottom where those lazy winter steelhead will be. When the river starts to warm, still run the same set-up, though focus on more pocket water and a little faster flows. The steelhead will be staging to spawn where the stoneflies are more abundant. In these shallower pockets and buckets, fish the fly once again off the bottom, just enough to slow the drift down. But I will also let the nymph swing out until it becomes tight below me. Doing this will allow the nymph to go from its deepest point to rise at the end in the faster current. This will give the impression it’s starting to surface to emerge or crawl out. I have my clients do this when fishing an indicator set-up. You will be surprised how many times a fish grabs it as you’re starting to bring it up to recast. Even egg flies can get hammered in this technique. This fly is very effective on sunny days, and when fishing pressure has been high during winter or spring. These steelhead have seen a lot of egg imitations, flies, spawn, or beads floated in front of them. I usually try to mix it up with a nymph. If the sun is out and the water is clear, this pattern can be very effective. This spring, before the Hendricksons start, remember the Little Black Stonefly when chasing steelhead or trout in your favorite Michigan river.
The Michigan trout opener is almost as enriched in history as our opening day of the firearm deer season. As trout anglers, it’s something we anxiously wait for all winter. It gives us the motivation to tie flies throughout the winter and fill those boxes for the hatches to come.
by Jeff Hubbard, Outfitters North Guide Service
Photo credit: Randy Riksen
Michigan Trout Unlimited
ONE FLY, ONE CAST,TWO TROUT!!!
by Greg McMorrow
At 67 years of age, one would think it unlikely to experience much that is truly new. The wonders and responsibilities of family, raising children, and having a career, coupled with gently launching into retirement, are mostly behind me now. I have been blessed and fortunate with these endeavors and now can enjoy more time on the rivers of Northern Michigan that I have loved since my early 20s. My son and I often float the flies-only section of the upper Manistee. The water below M-72 is easily accessible to a drift boat (which I will admit is luxurious comfort at my age) and largely void of crowds except during the high season of mayfly hatches. We have enjoyed floats every month of the year but are undoubtedly most excited to streamer fish during the fall months. The beautiful change in color of both fish and trees amongst relative solitude is unparalleled. As the fall progresses, spawning redds become visible, and fish feel the call to lay and fertilize their eggs in a similar fashion to anadromous fish such as salmon. We often see large spawning fish in fast clear water and marvel at the sheer energy expenditure as the fall-call progresses. It is rare to see such large browns in stationary holding positions apart from a few weeks of peak mayfly hatches that mainly happen at night. Conservationists need to observe but not disturb these fish while they are on their beds. Trout are particularly vulnerable during this short window – spawning success becomes vital for future fish populations, and the fishery’s sustainability is ultimately dependent upon unmolested fish reproduction. Besides, as trout spawning occurs over several weeks, there are more than enough pre-spawn fish that are eagerly aggressive, as well as post-spawners that feel the need to bulk up before the long winter. This fall we were fortunate to fish active stretches of the river with optimal conditions: higher water levels with a nice stain under minimal natural light. The day in question was far from one of these days. After launching the boat, we were both in a full sweat. It was 80+ degrees, not a cloud in sight, and the water was relatively low and very clear due to the lack of precipitation in recent weeks. In short, this late September day had more of a beer and hopper dog-days of summer feel than anything. No matter, we decided to push on with a small streamer approach, a size 6 Krystal Bugger, in hopes of picking up a few brook trout that have little reservation about feeding in the middle of a hot clear day. To our surprise and delight, about five minutes and no
more than a bend and a half from the launch, we hooked our first trout. As expected, it was a six-inch brookie that darted out from the bank to attack the fly mid-river, in 18 inches of water or less. I immediately pulled on the oars to slow the drift a bit, anticipating that we could strip in the beautiful colored-up male with a quick release on the go, without dropping the anchor. It was an auspicious start, and the ‘we will take this all day ‘ mentality entered my mind given the conditions. However, as the fish was almost surface skipping, inside ten feet from the boat and perhaps just a couple of strips from coming to hand, a near 20-inch brown tore into the brook trout. This was a magnificent fish in any season and seemingly inhaled the six-inch trout whole, ensuring a whole new battle, which turned into a dizzying fight, with the fish tearing across the river and downstream. Usually, I would drop anchor once the hook set was ensured and the trout was under control. This was different; did the relatively small hook rip thru the brook trout’s lip and fortuitously hook the big brown, or was the mangled little guy just (un)securely lodged in his gullet? Ryan urged me to continue gently floating as we had no clue the answer to this question. We have hooked, lost, and landed many brown trout over 18 inches, yet we never had this situation arise. The certainty of a size 2/4 articulated streamer hookset was usually part of the equation. After a few minutes of the fish violently flailing around the river and our delicate dance to not dislodge the uncertain debacle, the fish began to tire. As the trout headed slightly upstream on the right side of the river, I heard “NOW” from the boat’s bow, which under no uncertain terms meant to drop the anchor. Taking no chances, Ryan slid over the gunnel of the boat and waded toward the fish. Despite nearing exhaustion, the brown’s hard-wired instinct sent it on one last tear before finally succumbing to the bottom of the net. The mauled brookie was indeed solidly lodged in the brown’s gullet and did a remarkable job as a de facto hook. After carefully dislodging the mangled brookie, we snapped a few pics of the beautiful brown before swiftly releasing him back into the river, with careful concern given the hot weather to not overtax this beautiful specimen. The revival was brief, and the large trout swam away healthy and more than likely hungry after the rare and cherished encounter. However unlikely, I guess we are bait fishermen now. Does this mean I will start having to pay double for fly fishing publications?
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NON-PROFIT ORG. U.S. POSTAGE PAID Petoskey, MI PERMIT No. 110
Michigan Trout Unlimited P.O. Box 442 Dewitt, Michigan 48820-8820 TIME DATED MATERIAL
“This book is full of techniques and tips that will improve anyone’s game.” —Kelly Galloup
Lessons Learned From a Lifetime of Guiding
$34.95 ISBN 978-0-578-95224-6 8.5”w x 11”h 296 pages Hardcover with dust jacket
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