BY STEVEN GAMIBICKI, ALPENA FWCO
Pendills Lake, located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, provides a backup water supply for the Pendills Creek National Fish Hatchery. The hatchery raises over 1 million lake trout each year for stocking in the Great Lakes. Water that is free of bacterial and viral pathogens is crucial for the health of fish at the hatchery. Every other year staff from the La Crosse Fish Health Center in Wisconsin lead efforts to assess the bacterial and viral status of wild fish captured from Pendills Lake.
In May of 2016, Steven Gambicki and Kaley Genther from the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office in Michigan provided assistance to Corey Puzach and Sara Erickson from the La Crosse Fish Health Center with fish sampling efforts on Pendills Lake. Pumpkinseed sunfish, yellow perch, brown bullhead and rock bass were targeted as representative species of the fish community. Trap nets were used to capture the fish, and after the fish were collected they were assessed for bacterial and viral pathogens.
Bacterial pathogens were assessed by collecting a swab from the kidney of each fish and applying it to a media to look for bacterial growth. If bacteria were found, they were isolated into a single colony and run through a series of biochemical tests to see if any certifiable bacterial pathogens were detected. Polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, would then be used to verify the results. Viral pathogens were assessed by placing a sample from the kidney and spleen of each fish into a saline solution, which was further analyzed at the La Crosse Fish Health Center. The samples were diluted and placed on appropriate fish cells to see if any viruses could be detected. Results from bacterial and viral pathogen testing generally takes between 28 and 42 days, and can depend on how toxic the samples are, or if there are any pathogens present. No pathogens of concern were detected.
BY PAIGE WIGREN AND JANINE LAJAVIC, ALPENA FWCO - WATERFORD MI SUBSTATION
This summer staff from the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) attended a two day workshop on nongame fish identification in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan. The class was offered by the Michigan Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, organized by Dan Traynor (Michigan Department of Natural Resources), and instructed by Dr. Kevin Kapuscinski (Lake Superior State University). In addition to Alpena FWCO staff, 15 professionals and students attended the workshop representing the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Limnotech, Central Michigan University, Environmental Consulting & Technology Inc., Huff and Huff Inc., Great Lake Environmental Center, and Gun Lake Tribe of Pottawatomi Indians.
The course started with a brief overview on how to use the dichotomous key, Fishes of the Great Lakes Region by Hubbs and Lagler, and continued on to cover proper anatomical terms and different methods to accurately identify fishes using distinguishing characteristics. Techniques taught included: external anatomy observations (shape of body, mouth, fins, gill structures and scales and orientation of mouth, fins, and lateral line), common measurements (total length and standard length), and common counts (fin rays, fin spines, and scale counts). The workshop focused on lab and field identification of catostomids (suckers), cyprinids (minnows), and percids (darters). Interactive games and exercises were incorporated to create a more engaging learning experience in the laboratory.
In addition to laboratory identification skills, this fish identification workshop included hands-on experience in the field using several gear types. Along the St. Marys River at Nine Mile Marsh and at the mouth of the Charlotte River, attendees used seine nets, backpack electrofishing, and mini fyke nets to collect a diverse array of fishes for in-field identification. With several sampling gears available for use, the participants worked in small groups and were able to be actively involved in the collection and identification of specimens. Both laboratory and field identification knowledge is important since preserved specimens often look much different than live fish in the field. Preserved fish tend to lose coloration, which makes understanding and familiarity of key characteristics of species essential.
Workshops like these are important for professionals new to the region or fisheries field along with veterans wishing to brush up on identification skills. The Alpena FWCO staff that attended the workshop are part of the office’s early detection and monitoring program for non-native species. Having the ability to recognize and correctly identify organisms encountered during assessments is crucial to the success of this program and will aid in preventing and reducing the establishment and spread of aquatic invasive species.