Increasing white perch population affecting Lake Erie yellow perch

By Howard Meyerson

Lake Erie yellow perch fishing is being impacted by the non-native white perch that is eating up young yellow perch laravae. Photo: MDNR

Lake Erie yellow perch fishing is being impacted by the non-native white perch that is eating up young yellow perch laravae. Photo: MDNR

MONROE, MI — It’s no secret that the Lake Erie yellow perch fishery is not what it used to be. Only 10 million 2-year-olds now show up in the catch compared with peak years in the mid-1980s when 70 million to 80 million were caught.

Scientists studying the lake and fishery say there are numerous reasons why. They include changing water quality and clarity and the effects of recent warming trends. Yellow perch are a cool-water species.

Recent study findings, however, also suggest that Lake Erie’s booming white perch population has had more of an impact than previously thought. They prey voraciously on tiny yellow perch.

“The numbers are staggering,” said Stuart Ludsin, an associate professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State University. Ludsin has been studying the lake and its fishery for 20 years.

“There are between 46 million and 106 million predators in the western basin of Lake Erie. In just 24 hours they can consume between 32 million and 189 million yellow perch larvae. That is an enormous number.

“We don’t have that broken down by how much each eats, but I can tell you that white perch make up 90 percent of the predators. It is the most abundant predator in the lake. Period.” Continue reading

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Increased license fees will improve inland fishing, cold water habitat and hunting lands

More money will go to inland lake fisheries management that  benefits walleye fishing along with panfish, as a result of the license fee increase. Photo: Howard Meyerson

More money will go to inland lake fisheries management that benefits walleye fishing along with panfish, as a result of the license fee increase. Photo: Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

The start of Michigan’s 2014 fishing season is still a couple of weeks away, but if you haven’t been paying close attention you might be surprised when you buy a fishing license this year. Prices have gone up and there are fewer choices.

The state’s hunting, fishing and ORV license program was restructured by the legislature last year and Gov. Rick Snyder signed those changes into law last fall. The new program took effect on March 1, just in time for the new fishing season that opens April 1.

The changes will be good for Michigan. The license program was streamlined and state officials estimate the new fee structure will generate $18.1 million in additional revenue this year for hunting and fishing programs. In light of steady program erosion at the Michigan DNR over the past decade, that’s a good thing and I expect good things to come of it.

State fisheries officials, among other things, are planning to give inland waters more attention. An enhanced inland water focus should have payoffs for those who enjoy bluegills, crappies and walleye as well as species like northern pike, Great Lakes muskies and Great Lakes sturgeon. Continue reading

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Six state forest campgrounds to reopen: New access for equestrians, paddlers and anglers

By Howard Meyerson

Six rustic campgrounds that were closed in 2009 due to budget constraints are to be reopened. Four of them will be re-configured to provide additional camping opportunities for equestrians.That recommendation is being taken up March 13 by the Natural Resources Commission.

Six rustic campgrounds that were closed in 2009 due to budget constraints are to be reopened. Four of them will be re-configured to provide additional camping opportunities for equestrians.That recommendation is being taken up March 13 by the Natural Resources Commission.

The start of spring is still 10 days out and deep snows in the north country could well mean a slow start for Michigan’s camping season, but state officials are moving forward this week to expand Michigan’s State Forest Campground program.

Six rustic campgrounds that were closed in 2009 due to budget constraints are to be reopened. That recommendation is being taken up March 13 by the Natural Resources Commission. The commissioners first got a look at the proposal at their February meeting. Members of the Michigan State Park Advisory Committee who were also meeting that day passed a resolution supporting the move.

“All of these (campgrounds) have been asked for by the public,” said Anna Sylvester, the Michigan DNR’s northern Michigan field operations section chief for Parks and Recreation division. “They are being incorporated into routes that our staff travels so they can get to them several times a week.”

Four of the six rustic campgrounds will be re-configured to provide additional camping opportunities for equestrians. One is the Lower Peninsula. Three are in the Upper Peninsula. Various riding groups have asked for more camping and trail opportunities on state lands in recent years. Continue reading

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Climate Change: The Risks for Michigan birds

The Boreal Chickadee is as species found in Boreal Forests which may be impacted by climate shifts. Photo: Beth Olson

The Boreal Chickadee is as species found in northern boreal forests which are expected to be impacted by climate shifts. Photo: Beth Olson

By Howard Meyerson

While global climate change reports often focus on iconic creatures like polar bears and penguins, species that would be in jeopardy if the polar ice cap melts, Michigan and Great Lakes scientists are looking to understand what else might get in trouble. Will Michigan moose thrive 40 years from now when average temperatures are expected to be five degrees warmer? What about the Boreal Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, and Common Loon?

David Yarnold, National Audubon president and CEO, declared in an Audubon Magazine column last October that “climate change is the greatest threat to birds and biodiversity since humans have been on the planet.” He followed that by writing, “Scientists say we stand to lose one-quarter to one-third of all species on earth. And birds will be hit hard.”

That sweeping statement may raise doubt for some and give others reason for pause, but wildlife researchers say the evidence bears it out. “He is probably accurate with the caveat that there is still a lot of uncertainty,” says Chris Hoving, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources adaptation specialist, formerly the agency endangered species coordinator. “That one-third to one-quarter figure comes from a paper in the Journal of Science. It’s [based on] a simple model that looked at how much [home] ranges would change and how much biodiversity we would lose (due to climate shifts), but it is as good as we know. It could be more or it could be less.”

Least Bitterns one of the most difficult marsh birds to spot. The species faces possible population decline due to climate changes. Photo: USGS.

Least Bitterns one of the most difficult marsh birds to spot. The species faces possible population decline due to climate changes. Photo: USGS.

Data from citizen science projects like Audubon Christmas Bird Counts and Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch, along with projects like the Michigan Breeding Bird Atlas, have provided scientists with snapshots of the species that are moving northwards where winters are becoming less harsh and nesting seasons are growing longer.

“We already see evidence that birds are moving in Michigan and are adapting to the one degree Fahrenheit change we’ve had in the last 100 years,” Hoving said, pointing to the Least Bittern and Northern Cardinal as two examples. “We anticipate by mid-century, 2050, we will be looking at a three- to five-degree change and that the rate of change between now and then will be ten times as fast as the last 100 years.” Continue reading

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The romance of the courting canoe era is alive and well at Ken Kelly’s place

The lore and romance of early 20th Century wood and canvas canoes, and a modern-dayCRv13i1-1 man who collects them,  is the subject of a feature story by me in the newest issue of Canoeroots Magazine. It is called “The Canoe Collector.” The story profiles Ken Kelly, a Grand Rapids, Michigan wine dealer and Canoe Casanova, who has the world’s largest and finest collection of these magnificent wooden courting canoes. 

Kelly’s canoes date back to an era when designers built them for style and romance, a time when couples would go down to the river for a little moonlight  smooching. That became such a popular way to court your gal that local communities began to pass ordinances to restrict behavior on the water and hired constables to patrol local park ponds.

Photographer Judith Strieby-Raska shot the amazing photos for the story. Be sure to CRv13i1-50check out her  website: judesrphotography.com

Kelly is the president of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association, a national non-profit organization. Its members are dedicated to the restoration and preservation of old wooden canoes.

You can find an earlier feature of mine  on this blog about the group’s annual float trip down Michigan’s AuSable River. Check out the photo gallery from that 2012 outing. I had great fun paddling one of Ken’s old canoes.

If you enjoy antique wooden canoes, paddling nostalgia, or simply world-class wood canoe restoration work, check out the cover story in the new Canoeroots Magazine or go to its website.  Magazine publisher, RapidMedia,  has a digital copy online which requires an email to read if you are not a subscriber.

Happy paddling!

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A winter view: Walking the frozen Lake Michigan shoreline

Ice caves formed in the shelf ice all along the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula. Photo: Howard Meyerson.

Ice caves formed in the shelf ice all along the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula. Photo: Howard Meyerson.

By Howard Meyerson

NORTHPORT, MI — As I moved cautiously from one ice knob to another, planting ski poles for added support in the uneven and slippery terrain, the northwest wind seemed intent on pressing southward, blunting the warm glow of the sun.

After so many bleak and gray winter days, having clear skies and sunshine was a delicious treat. People from all-walks of life had converged on this area, the frozen Lake Michigan landscape at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula. They were gathered in small groups of two and three, spread out on the ice, maybe with children in tow. Each of the explorers seemed tiny against the vast frozen expanse.

We had come north to cross-country ski and had for one day, a marvelous day with deep fresh snow on the trails, but the frozen shoreline had proved irresistible. To walk out on Lake Michigan at the height of this year’s deep-freeze was like walking on the moon, so barren and desolate – and like walking in the Arctic at the height of winter.

The wind chills were below zero. The day called for all the extras: a balaclava, a beanie and a hood. It was an outing tolerated only with extra-heavy gloves, multiple layers and heavy boots that even then required constant movement lest toes begin to freeze.

As a friend and I walked amid the spectacular ice shelves and caves, the jumbled frozen

Slabs of broken ice pile up where large sheets of ice have collided. Photo: Howard Meyerson

Slabs of broken ice pile up where large sheets of ice have collided. Photo: Howard Meyerson

sheets of ice that lay stacked and broken into so many pieces of blue crystal covered in snow, I found myself mesmerized by the hauntingly beautiful terrain. Continue reading

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Recreation passport requirements change at some locales

Fletcher's Pond is popular with both anglers and birdwatchers who enjoy seeing the osprey that nest on man made nesting platforms.  Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Fletcher’s Pond is popular with both anglers and birdwatchers who enjoy seeing the osprey that nest on man made nesting platforms. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

By Howard Meyerson

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Anglers, birdwatchers and others who enjoy boating on Fletcher’s Pond will need a state recreation passport this year to launch on the popular 9,000 acre flooding in Montmorency and Alpena counties. Michigan DNR director, Keith Creagh, approved a staff proposal in early February to require a passport for access there and six other state parks, recreation areas and boat launches. Creagh also eliminated the need for passports at three state forest campgrounds and a Mecosta County boating access site.

“Fletcher’s Pond is busy all year-long,” said Anna Sylvester, the DNR’s northern Michigan field operations section chief for its Parks and Recreation division. “Parking there is out of control. There were no fees, but we knew we would need to start staffing it to get the parking under control. So a passport will be required, which will help cover the cost of staffing.”

State recreation passports cost $11. The can be purchased on site or when license plates are renewed each year. The Passport provides free access to state parks, state recreation areas, state forest campgrounds, and more than 70 boating access sites.

Sylvester said the passport requirement was added at sites where staffing and other work will be needed. It was removed at sites where local government or other private concessionaires were taking over operations.

“Fletchers will be staffed on the weekends, and during the week it could be spotty, but there it will have a self-registration tube where people can buy a passport. They just need to keep the receipt, and we will send them one. If staff is there they can buy a passport from them,” Sylvester said. Continue reading

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Valuable Lessons: Boy Scouts brave cold to help ducks

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Chris Franks, a scout from Troop 602, screws on the nest box lid while Scout Joshua Hickey holds the ladder with the help of another scout from Troop 111. Photo: Susan Hickey

By Howard Meyerson

ROSCOMMON, MI — When the members of Clio Boy Scout Troop 602 met last fall to build duck nesting boxes, installing them on trees around a frozen swamp was just a distant idea. No one knew that snows would pile up and become deep; that the Michigan winter ahead would be the coldest in decades.

But February’s deep freeze didn’t slow the intrepid scouts. Excited about doing something different – a conservation project to help wood ducks – they gathered at the Backus Creek State Game Area near Roscommon and loaded up a sled with boxes and tools. Then they put on snowshoes, or planned to sink in the snow and spent a snowy, cold day installing them around the marsh.

“It was a good group. They were pretty energetic,” said Mark Boersen, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist who oversees the game area and accompanied the group. “Most were willing to go up the ladder and attach a box to a tree; once in a while one needed encouragement.

“It’s been a really cold winter and the hardest thing when working with nuts and bolts, is you have to take your gloves off. By the end of the day, some of the boys were pretty cold.”

The scouts that had ventured out to do good things for ducks included seven boys from Troop 602 and two others from Troop 111, in Bay City. That they were there in snow – learning about wood duck ecology – was brainchild of Susan Hickey, mother of Josh Hickey, one of the scouts.

“I was looking for something more that the boys could do. We do normal service activities like food drives and cleaning up a park in town, but a lot of the group hunts and the conservation aspects of the project were appealing.

“I wanted the boys to do more than pick up trash on the beach. I thought it was important that they learn there are things to do to keep ducks around. It also exposed them to what a DNR guy does – not just the hunting side of the story.” Continue reading

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Biggest Steelhead of 2013: Grand Rapids anglers makes good on the Big Manistee River

Fishing guide, Chuck Scribner (left) helps his client and friend, Bill Fuhs hold up the 38-inch steelhead Fuhs caught on the Big Manistee River last fall. (Courtesy | Captain Chuck Scribner)

Fishing guide, Chuck Scribner (left) helps his client and friend, Bill Fuhs hold up the 38-inch steelhead Fuhs caught on the Big Manistee River last fall. (Courtesy | Captain Chuck Scribner)

By Howard Meyerson

MANISTEE, MI — Their day started out like any number in late October – some wind, some sun and fish were jumping, but the bite? Well, honestly, meh.

Things could have been a lot better to hear Captain Chuck Scribner tell the story, but the 25-year veteran Manistee River guide was, in fact, fishing with one of his favorite clients and friend: Bill Fuhs, of Grand Rapids. Some call him “Big Fish Bill.”

When friends fish together there is no such thing as a bad day. Time spent on the water together is valuable – like gold. And, Fuhs, who had fished with Scribner for 18 years, had every confidence that the day would end up enjoyable, not to mention productive. What he didn’t anticipate was landing a 38-inch steelhead weighing 21-pounds, 3-ounces – the largest reported on 2013 Michigan Master Angler list in the catch and release category.

“I was absolutely surprised,” said Fuhs, who is known on the river for his trademark black cowboy hat. “We had four and half hours of nothing and then all of a sudden I hit a fish, lost it as it came at me, then cast out again and it hit.

“It started going downstream and kept fighting. They are so powerful you can’t tell for a while what you have, but it became obvious that it was something special.” Continue reading

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Boardman River Dam Removal Project Moves to Phase 2

The Boardman Dam will come down and Cass Road Bridge will be moved as part Phase 2. Photo: Courtesy of Theboardman.org

By Howard Meyerson

Even though deep snow now blankets most of the state, work is underway to continue restoration efforts on Boardman River. The projected $17 million to $19 million project that will result in the removal of three dams and the modification of a fourth dam is entering Phase 2, according the Boardman River Dams Implementation Team.

“Our work is progressing,” said Frank Dituri, the implementation team chairman and wetland ecologist with the Grand Traverse Bay Band of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. “We are in the midst of grant writing and collecting data related to removal of the Boardman and Sabin dams. That construction, or deconstruction, would most likely happen in 2015.”

Phase 2 work is expected to cost from $13 million to $15 million. It includes design work, stream studies, and replacing the Cass Road Bridge over the river, among other things. It also includes modification of the Union Street Dam in Traverse City. That dam will remain in place as a sea lamprey barrier. It is the first barrier upstream from Lake Michigan and is likely to be modified to allow some passage of lake-run fish, once decisions are made about which species to let pass. Continue reading

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