Alpena FWCO - Waterford Substation Native Species Program
Another Field Season in the Books
BY PAIGE WIGREN, ALPENA FWCO – WATERFORD, MI SUBSTATION
River rock ramp. Credit: USFWS
The native species program at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) – Waterford, Michigan (MI) substation focuses effort on the St. Clair – Detroit River System (SCDRS), southern Lake Huron, and Lake Erie. With seven Areas of Concern (AOCs) in this area, much of our work involves evaluating the fisheries response to habitat enhancement projects aimed at removing Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs) in these AOCs. Surveys are also conducted to monitor threatened and endangered species such as northern madtom and lake sturgeon, evaluate fish passage projects, and assist our partners as requested. Below are some of the highlights from the 2016 field season.
In the fall of 2015, the Frankenmuth Dam, in Frankenmuth, MI was removed and replaced with a rock ramp to reconnect the Cass River and improve fish passage. In order to monitor fish passage, electrofishing assessments were conducted in the spring and summer. Fish were tagged downstream of the rock ramp and electrofishing assessments were conducted upstream in search of recaptures. In total, 54 electrofishing transects were conducted yielding 2,464 fish. Of these, nearly 700 received a tag downstream of the rock ramp. Throughout the spring and summer, assessments upstream resulted in the recapture of one white sucker and two redhorse suckers, proving that fish can and are migrating upstream of the rock ramp. This work will continue over the next two field seasons partnering with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Central Michigan University.
on releasing a gizzard shad from a gill net.
Since 2004, the native species program has aided in the construction of four artificial spawning reefs in the Detroit River (Belle Isle, Grassy Island, Fighting Island and Middle Channel) and three in the St. Clair River (Harts Light, Algonac, and Middle Channel). These reefs have added over 16 acres of spawning habitat for native species such as lake sturgeon, northern madtom, and walleye and are also aiding in the removal of the “loss of fish and wildlife habitat” and “degradation of fish and wildlife populations” BUIs in these AOCs. During the 2016 field season, 82 gill nets and 588 minnow traps were deployed to monitor fish species using the reefs and evaluate reef success.
112 pound lake sturgeon captured on a setline in the Detroit River.
During the spring and early summer of 2016, setlines were deployed in the Detroit River and southern Lake Huron to assess the population demographics of lake sturgeon in these areas. In total, 153 lake sturgeon were captured, with 15 being recaptures. In addition to common biological information collected from each fish such as total length and weight, each sturgeon received a Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag with a unique number to distinguish them from unmarked fish in the population. The largest sturgeon for the year was over 70” inches long and weighted 112 lbs.