Proceedings of the 2006 Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon Coordination Meeting

Lake Michigan Basin

The discussion was started with introductions by participants including a brief description of their affiliation and suggestions of topics to cover during this group discussion.

Rob Elliott (USFWS), Marty Holtgren (LRBOI), Rick Loeffler (North American Hydro, inc.), Kevin Mann (Michigan Technological University), Stephanie Ogren (LRBOI), Jeremy Pyatskowit (MITW), Aaron Paquet (Northern Environmental).

Major Topics Covered:
Because the group was small, most of the discussion time focused on topics of common interest and involvement by the participants such as habitat and fish passage work

- Updates to population status and to basin map and tables
- Habitat Rehabilitation work by participants
- Fish passage activities and opportunities
- Lake Michigan Rehabilitation Plan
- PIT tag data submission and reader distribution

Discussion Summary:

Updates to population status and to basin map and tables
Recent observations and collections by MDNR (Kregg Smith) indicate more consistent presence of adults, juveniles and larvae in the Kalamazoo and Grand Rivers, and greater abundance of young sturgeon in the Muskegon River, all suggesting recent and improved spawning success in those systems. Updated population estimates are available for the Menominee River and the wolf River (from WDNR) and updated spawning run estimates are available for the Manistee River (CMU). Doug Cox’s name should be replaced with Jermy Pyatskowit as a contact from the MITW for the upper Wolf River. It was relayed that use of the status term “Remnant” might not be appropriate for some river segments where historic abundance may not have been much higher than current numbers due to limited size and habitat availability (eg. upper sections of the Menominee River).

Habitat Rehabilitation work by participants
There was a good bit of discussion and exchange by participants from the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Northern Environmental, and the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin regarding similar habitat rehabilitation, bank stabilization, habitat inventory, and habitat use studies that each are involved with. Kevin Mann described the telemetry study ongoing in the Manistee River that has involved the tracking of both wild and streamside reared wild fish for determining habitat use. Battery life for the small transmitters has been improved from 1 mo. to 2-3 months. The topic of habitat rehabilitation was also discussed relative to needs for the Lake Michigan Rehabilitation Plan (see section below).

Fish passage activities and opportunities
Participants from North American Hydro, Inc., the Menominee Indian Tribe, and the USFWS discussed the opportunities for field testing upstream fish passage devices for sturgeon. There are interests in providing sturgeon passage at several barriers around the Lake Michigan basin including on the Menominee, Cedar (at a potential new lamprey barrier), Manistique, Boardman, and Milwaukee rivers. It is likely that research funds would be available for field testing the spiral design fishway if a suitable location for testing can be identified. It was noted that the Shawano Dam on the Wolf River would be a good candidate because of the number of fish present during the spawning run. If successful where fish are abundant, the structure could then be moved and used elsewhere with greater confidence of success. North American Hydro is the owner of the Shawano Facility and is interested in being able to identify successful passage devises for facilities they own on other rivers around the Great Lakes. The Menominee Tribe is also interested in developing plans for passage of lake sturgeon at the Shawano facility and will continue to discuss this with WDNR.

Lake Michigan Rehabilitation Plan
The Lake Michigan Lake Sturgeon Task Group is continuing to work on elements of a basin-wide Rehabilitation Plan for lake sturgeon in Lake Michigan. Participants discussed the development of specific objectives and strategies for individual river systems. For example, there is need and intent to complete habitat restoration on the Manistee River over the next 20 years so that there will be adequate spawning habitat to support increased reproduction when current year classes of sturgeon (enhanced through streamside rearing) returns to spawn. Other similar examples include the Milwaukee River, where dam removal and/or passage will be important for providing access to spawning habitat for sturgeon that are now being introduced into that river through the use of streamside rearing. The need to complete inventories of existing habitat in present and potential sturgeon rivers was also discussed.

PIT tag data submission and reader distribution
Participants were reminded to submit their PIT tag data for inclusion in the Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon Tag ID database. Another supply of PIT tag readers were recently purchased through a grant from the Great lakes Fishery Trust and were being distributed to agencies that had indicated a need. If anyone has need for the temporary loan of a reader, contact Rob Elliott, USFWS.

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