Les Cheneaux Islands fish community survey starts next week in UP

In September 1969, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources began a netting survey of the channels and embayments (coastline recesses that form bays) of the Les Cheneaux Islands, located along the Lake Huron shoreline on the Upper Peninsula’s southeastern tip.

For 50 years since, the DNR has returned to repeat the survey using the same gear types and same approximate sampling stations to detect changes in fish populations. This year’s survey gets underway next week.

“We’ll count each fish by species and weigh and measure them,” said Dave Fielder, a fisheries research biologist out of Alpena. “We’ll also collect spines from some species to allow us to age the fish, which helps determine growth and mortality rates.”

The data collected will be used to understand the health of different fish populations and examine their trends over time. Survey findings also contribute to decisions about fishing regulations.

Additionally, this work is key to examining how local yellow perch populations are responding to cormorant management efforts. Cormorants are large, migratory birds that feed on fish, including perch. Since 2004, the DNR and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services have partnered on cormorant control efforts to benefit the yellow perch fishery.

A federal ruling in 2016 suspended cormorant control, but efforts were partially reinstated in 2018. As the cormorant population changes, fish population monitoring is critical to documenting both the effects and benefits of continued cormorant control.

“These long-term data series are valuable because they chronicle the ever-changing fish community and food webs,” said Neal Godby, a fisheries biologist out of Gaylord. “This, plus an annual creel survey, provides most of the information needed to help inform decisions about fisheries management.”

Staff from the DNR’s Alpena Fisheries Research Station will use the Research Vessel Tanner to conduct the survey, which takes about a week to complete. Results will be presented in an April 2020 public presentation in Cedarville.


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