Green Bay Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office
BY TED TRESKA, GREEN BAY FWCO
to coded wire tag fish stocked into the Great Lakes. Credit: USFWS
Nestled along the Niagara Escarpment overlooking the waters of Green Bay, the Green Bay Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) is a bustling hub of activity this time of year. With fish tagging trailers rolling out to hatcheries around the Great Lakes, AIS Invasive Species trucks and boats coming and going with samples, and field crews from the native fish restoration program preparing nets and boats for late summer sampling, it seems that there is always traffic in the parking lot, as well as across the Lake Michigan basin and beyond.
Native Species Restoration
The lake trout program is involved with a number of ongoing projects, both in Lake Michigan and other Great Lakes focused on native species such as lake trout, lake whitefish, and bloater. In addition to the annual surveys monitoring lake trout and whitefish populations as part of a lakewide effort on Lake Michigan, the office plays an integral part in an effort to restore bloaters to Lake Ontario, plying the icy waters of Lake Michigan in January and February to collect the eggs that are then raised up to be stocked into Lake Ontario to bring back a native forage species to the ecosystem. This past winter’s collection effort yielded a record 1.3 million bloater eggs, surpassing the annual goal of 1.1 million and providing enough fish for comprehensive rearing studies in the two hatcheries that receive the eggs.
This summer, the program participated in a coordinated effort to measure the varying levels of lake whitefish recruitment around the lake, sampling up to 5000 young-of-the-year in a single beach seine haul from some locations. In the coming months, staff will perform hydroacoustic surveys paired with mid-water trawling aboard the M/V Spencer Baird to assist in producing lakewide estimates of preyfish abundances, recently incorporating transects in Green Bay proper into the sites sampled. The program also continues to work with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and the Sea Lamprey Control Program to provide metrics used to measure the impact that sea lamprey predation is having on fish communities across the Great Lakes.
The lake sturgeon program stays busy with numerous projects each year and has actively partnered with federal, state, tribal and non-profit partners in the common goal of Lake Michigan lake sturgeon rehabilitation. Lake sturgeon passage around the Menominee and Park Mills dams on the Menominee River, bordering Michigan and Wisconsin, has been a large undertaking over many years. This spring, for the first time in over 100 years, adult lake sturgeon were passed around these first two dams. The passage facilities include a fish lift and three large sorting and holding tanks that allows biologists to actively select those fish to pass while denying invasive species, including sea lamprey, access above the dam. Once passed, lake sturgeon have access to an additional 24 miles of previously unreachable habitat. These fish then are able to pass back downstream through bypass channels around each dam to safely return to Green Bay and Lake Michigan.
yielding astounding numbers. Credit: USFWS
For the fifth consecutive year, the Green Bay FWCO has helped advance lake sturgeon rehabilitation on the Kalamazoo River, Michigan as a partner in the daily operation of the streamside rearing facility located on that river. Sturgeon eggs and larvae are collected from the river and from wild Kalamazoo River spawners each spring and reared within the portable streamside facility. These gametes are reared in their birth waters so that they can imprint to the river and ultimately return to the Kalamazoo once they are mature enough to spawn. Fish in the facility are protected from predation and disease while being fed for approximately five months and grow to 6-10 inches before being released back into the river. Before their release, each fish is given a unique PIT tag to identify its origin and release from this streamside rearing facility so that it can be identified throughout it’s life.
facility. Credit: Stefan Tucker
The Great Lakes Fish Tag and Recovery Laboratory, stationed at Green Bay FWCO, has been hard at work both tagging fish and collecting data from captured tagged fish in the sport fishery. The lab operates four automated tagging trailers which inject a 1-mm coded wire tag (CWT) into the snout of Chinook and Atlantic salmon and lake trout in the hatcheries while simultaneously removing the fish’s adipose fin. Each CWT contains a six-digit code representing a year class, hatchery of origin, stocking location, and genetic strain. Since the program started in 2010, the lab has marked almost 48 million fish. As the tagging program expands, the lab hopes to tag other species such as brook trout and steelhead. After each tagging season is complete, the lab heads into high gear extracting and reading all the tags collected throughout the season from fishing tournaments, angler returns, and agency surveys. Biological data including length and weight are collected from each fish missing an adipose fin before a small section of the snout containing the tag is removed. A steady stream of CWT snouts funnel into the lab throughout the year. Once all tags are extracted and read, the biological data is disseminated to state agencies for a cooperative analyses.
Aquatic Invasive Species
The Green Bay FWCO multifaceted aquatic invasive species early detection and monitoring program (AIS-EDMP) in is full swing. Activities involve close collaboration with a variety of local, state, federal, and non-profit partners. Field crews have been out sampling all over the Lake Michigan basin for ichthyoplankton, eDNA, juvenile/adult fish, and macroinvertebrates. So far this year a total of 2,400 eDNA samples have been collected from six high priority tributaries monitoring for Silver and Bighead carp. For ichthyoplankton sampling more than 230 samples have been collected in Green Bay alone. Sampling for juvenile/adult fish employs a large suite of gears and occurs from midsummer to late fall to cover the time period the young of the year fish grow large enough to catch. Additionally, number of research projects to improve sampling efficacy are being incorporated into the EDMP to get the most out of the season.
Also for 2015, the Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative is being conducted in Lake Michigan and the AIS-EDMP is taking advantage of this great opportunity. In collaboration with Sea Grant, USGS, EPA, NOAA, Central Michigan and Cornell Universities the AIS-EDMP is sampling ichthyoplankton, juvenile/adult fish, and macroinvertebrates at eight sites around the lake. The first round of sampling took place in late May/early June and will be repeated in August and October. Sampling gear for each round includes both micro and large mesh gillnets, as well as bongo tows for ichthyoplankton. Additionally, rock bags are deployed for invertebrate colonization over a four to six week period.
Passage and Habitat
On June 1, 2015 Joe Sheahan took over the Lake Michigan Fish Passage and Habitat Restoration Program and is the co-coordinator of the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative. Prior to joining the program Joe had worked for the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife where he coordinated the Western Oregon Stream Restoration Program.
The Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative recently adopted the charter for the Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative. The purpose of the Collaborative is to harness the capacities, expertise, and abilities of all partners in support of common conservation outcomes for connectivity within riverine networks and between the lakes and the tributaries in the Great Lakes Basin, and to serve as a strategic forum for collaboration, coordination, and integration.The major work that is being funded through the National Fish Passage Program includes the removal of the Fawn River State Fish Hatchery in Indiana that will reconnect 25.6 miles habitat. The program also funds monitoring of mussel relocation efforts and genetic monitoring of slimy sculpin populations above and below a barrier associated with barrier removal.