Michigan Sea Grant Meeting
Written by Rick Balabon - Team Experience Outdoors   
Sunday, 07 January 2007 12:06

The Michigan Sea Grant meeting was held in Ludington, Michigan on Saturday January 6, 2007 where a lot of information was presented some of which will be covered in this article. Chuck Pistas, the Interim State Coordinator for Michigan Sea Grant Extension program opened the meeting and did the introductions.

Lamprey Control 

Jeff Slade, a Fishery Biologist from the USFWS gave us a report on the Sea lamprey program and in particular, the Pere Marquette River and Lake Mich. But first, a little background on the lamprey. The female lays somewhere between 60 and 90 thousand eggs and the adults die after spawning. The larvae spends 3 to 6 years in the river and then morph into parasites and move out into the lake to find large fish to attach themselves to.  They spend approx. 1 to 2 years in the lake and then return to the rivers to spawn.  Interestingly Lamprey do not always return to their natal rivers to spawn and that they will travel as far as they have to find food but normally don’t have to go very far. There are approx. 5000 tributaries in Michigan, only 500 of them have lamprey and they treat approx. 160 of them each year and try to treat each one every 3 to 5 years.

Slade said they did do a lampricide treatment to the Pere Marquette (PM) in 2006 because the numbers of juvenile larvae had jumped in 2000 and 2004 during their surveys. He said they had treated the river in 2002.

Slade also said the electronic barrier is operating and doing a good job but neither the treatments nor the barrier are 100% effective. The barrier is designed to prevent the upstream travel of adult lamprey to spawn, and the treatments are supposed to kill the juvenile larvae in the rivers before they morph and return to the lake to start feeding.  Before the installation of the barrier they estimated that 2.5 million larvae were in the river yearly, then in the 2002 survey they collected 200,000 larvae and in 2006 only 140,000 larvae. They used to get 35,000 larvae heading to the lake pre barrier, but only 12,000 in 2002 and only 3,800 in 2006, so there has been a significant reduction in the recruitment of lamprey. Over 118 stream miles of the P.M. received treatment in Aug. 2006 and in those 118 miles only 634 larvae were collected along with 4 transformed larvae getting ready to head to the lake. 

The USFWS estimate that for the years 2005 and 2006 there was very little recruitment. Slade indicated that they average 6,600 Steelhead through the barrier each year and the barrier on the P.M. is normally turned on about the 1st of March and remains that way until the middle of July, averaging approximately 419 adult lamprey collected at the barrier each year while the barrier is turned on.

Slade was asked why we have seen an increase in lamprey scarring the past couple of years; he didn’t have any official reasons but did offer a couple of opinions. First reason was that the barrier on the Manistique River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsular was failing and allowing a large number of adult lampreys up river to spawn, the Manistique River is a large producer of lamprey but the river has been treated recently and that should help. Second reason was that  they had to reduce the river treatments in several rivers because they are also spawning rivers for Lake Sturgeon and lampricide is harmful to juvenile sturgeon, but they have better identified those rivers and have begun treating some of them again. Also, someone suggested that a lot of lamprey may come over from Lake Huron but he thought that number was minimal.

Michigan Charter Boat reporting online

Another speaker at the meeting was Donna Wesander from the Michigan DNR and she gave a quick report on the new electronic charter boat creel census reporting they are going to test this year. They are going to start with 5 boats/Captains and see how it works. They will be able to log their catch in daily on the report page if they want to and then submit it monthly, reducing the time it takes to sort the info out and make it available, it also reduces the paper work they now need to submit. Each Captain will also be able to go back and look at all data they submitted in the past, but that it will be a secure site and no one else would be able to access their reports or info.

Little River Band of the Ottawa Indians tribal fisheries

Had a quick report from Archie Martell, the Fisheries Biologist from the Little River Band of the Ottawa Indians. He gave a report on the number of Whitefish taken in the LRB zone for 2006 using trap nets. The  weight  was a little over 300,000 lbs of fish , over the past several years that the age of the fish has gone up but the size of the fish has gone down to an average of 2.3 pounds for 2005 compared to 6.8 pounds for 1989. He also said that for year 2005 they harvested 1,900 Lake Trout and for 2006 they harvested almost 300 Lake Trout as incidental catch, they are allowed 100 pounds per day per fisherman; they must return any salmon, rainbow trout, or brown trout they catch. The numbers for stream fishing in 2006, not using hook and line were 103 salmon and 12 steelhead.

Now for the bad news, he also reported that for the 2006 season they had 2 trap net permits issued, each trap net permit is allowed to fish up to 12 trap nets, only one permit was actually used in 2006 even though 2 were issued.  For 2007 they have issued 4 trap net permits but he wouldn’t tell us who they were issued to. That means if all 4 trap net permits use the max. 12 nets, that there could be up to 48 trap nets out there this year (doubtful but possible). He also said that the problems with people getting tangled in the nets the past couple of years have been reduce greatly do to the cooperation of the Tribal Fishermen marking their nets beyond the requirements’ but that he could not guarantee that the new fishermen would do the same although they had been strongly encouraged to do so by the tribe. He said the same thing about the locations being reported, that they have been done so in the past via the Ludington Charter Boat Association but could not guarantee this would continue with the new fisherman but it was also strongly encouraged by the tribe. Lets all hope the cooperation continues and no one has any problems with the nets this year.

Viral Hemmorhagic Septicemia

Gary Whelan , Michigan DNR Fisheries Hatchery Manager gave a report on VHS ( Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia ) . This looks to be a very problematic issue and will probably get worse. First of all, we need to know that this is a Rhabdovirus and it is not transmitted to humans, it is an exotic species that was probably brought in by ballast water around 2002. This virus cause’s large scale hemorrhaging to the internal organs and osmotic regulation failure to some fish.  It is known to cause large scale mortality to rainbow trout and turbot in Europe and has caused die offs of musky and perch and sheep head in Lake St. Clair and Lake Ontario. It was first discovered in the U.S. in 2005 in Lake Ontario in fresh water drum and in Lake St. Clair in the musky population. It affects at least 17 species of fish, including round gobies, but no one knows yet if it will affect salmon but they suspect that as it moves up the lakes we will start to see it in Lake Huron in the next 2 to 4 years and Lake Mich in 3 to 6 years and Lake Superior in 10 to 15 years.

The virus likes cold water; it lives in water temperatures of 35 degrees up to about 60 degrees. It is easily spread from the body fluids from the fish and is hard to kill off with conventional methods but it does not like prolonged exposure to the sun or bleach. It is important that we all continue to treat out boats like we have in the past when we were dealing with Zebra Mussels, we should drain our bilge and bait tanks and wash with bleach water if possible before moving our boats from waters already infected, to virgin waters and we should not transport live bait with us. This virus could turn out to be a very big problem and we have already seen some of the results of the disease when AFIS suspended the transportation of fish out of the great lakes states, including hatchery fish and bait fish. There will be a meeting in Romulus Mich. on Wed. Jan 10th at 8:30 am at the Crown Plaza Hotel if you would like to weigh in on this subject. The Crown Plaza Hotel is across from Detroit Metro Airport.

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