Fishing for Trouble

Photography by Istock/Doug4537

By Howard Meyerson

It was one of those hot and muggy summer days on the Kalamazoo River and I had just finished securing my canoe on top of the car after a paddle, when I noticed the three young anglers parked next to me. All had come in the same truck and none were wearing masks. They were rigging their fishing rods, getting ready to walk down to the river.

I watched with mild consternation as two of them crossed the parking lot headed for the riverbank. Somewhat conflicted, I decided to say something and turned to the third, a nice 20-something area resident and said: “Do you know you can’t eat the fish in these waters? The sign down there by the boat ramp says they are contaminated.”

He looked up at me with surprise in his eyes and calmly said, “No. This is our first time here.”

“Check it out for yourself,” I responded pointing to the sign I had noticed earlier when three of us (all over 60) had launched solo canoes, each having driven our own cars to try to maintain social distance, masks in our pockets should we need them.

I was reminded of the ways of my youth — impulsive, spontaneous and sometimes unaware. Today, I don’t think of eating fresh-caught fish without knowing whether they are safe, meaning uncontaminated. When in doubt I check the online advice and warnings that are provided by Michigan’s Department of Health & Human Service’s fish consumption advisory program.

We don’t hear much about the fish consumption advisory program these days, but there is a wealth of information there about safe fish to eat, what lakes or rivers are contaminated, how many portions are safe to consume of various species and which not to eat at all, particularly if you are pregnant or young and plan to have kids soon, or have diabetes or cancer. It also describes how to prepare and cook fish to reduce contamination levels if those levels are low enough to allow limited consumption.

The information is found at Michigan.gov/eatsafefish where you can find answers to questions about what is safe, or not. Click “Find your Area” for specifics about various waters and the fish that are caught in them. There are also general statewide guidelines for waters that do not appear on the list organized by county, and what to consider with regard to mercury and other chemicals.

Many have heard about the contamination problems on the Kalamazoo River after
the Enbridge oil spill, but the problems there predate that incident. PCBs or Dioxin are the concern and most of the river has Do Not Eat warnings for popular species. Many other popular waters around the state have their problems, too. There are good health reasons to add fresh fish to your diet, and fishing is fun, but choosing wisely which fish you eat means fewer toxic chemicals get consumed and accumulate to cause later health problems.

I don’t know what the three young anglers decided to do, but as I drove out of the parking lot, I did notice them all standing around the sign reading it. That, I figured, was a pretty good start.

This column was published in the fall 2020 issue of Michigan BLUE Magazine. See: https://www.mibluemag.com/undercurrents/fishing-for-trouble/

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Early Start on a New Year

Things have been quiet here for the last few months. It’s been a busy and creative period, having accepted a new position as managing editor of Michigan BLUE. This is the 10th year for BLUE, a statewide lifestyle magazine with an emphasis on water and waterfront living. Take a look if you haven’t seen it. The winter issue is out on the racks at bookstores all over the state. Enjoy!

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Third coast boat builders:  Upper Peninsula boat building school grows.

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Earth-friendly approach: Making organic wines, ciders and beers.

Source: BLUE Home

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Ahh Yeaah! Shopping on Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas all. Hope you enjoy this little groove from one of my favorite musicans.

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Invasive Asian carp less than 50 miles from Lake Michigan

Great Lake states and the federal government continue to devote money and brainpower to stopping a potential Great Lakes ecological disaster

Source: Invasive Asian carp less than 50 miles from Lake Michigan

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Nothing beats fall for paddling

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Invasive Plants and Birds: Research Shows Native Plants Are Better for Nutrition

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When given a choice, the Swainson’s Thrush and other migrating bird species will pick native plants to feed on over non-native plants. Photo: Josh Haas.

By Howard Meyerson

Kay Charter isn’t shy about letting people know that native plants are preferred when it comes to providing nutrition for birds. She and her husband, Jim, restored 30 acres of prairie on their 44-acre Omena bird preserve, Charter Sanctuary. The couple created it to provide a landscape where bird conservation was a top priority.

“The most important thing is removing non-native plants,” notes Charter, executive director for Saving Birds Thru Habitat, a conservation and education nonprofit that promotes protecting, enhancing and restoring habitat for birds. “You don’t have to buy a bunch of plants. We did that here, though, spent thousands of [grant] dollars on native plants—and converted 30 acres to prairie by planting native grass and forbs [flowering plants] . . . and planted shrubs like elderberry and service berry around a wetland, and other trees and shrubs.”

Native plant species have larger insect populations, Charter said. Insects are crucial because they provide the protein young birds need to grow. Charter recognized that fact some years ago, and she ardently promotes Dr. Doug Tallamy’s work. Continue reading

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Dave Irish: A Life Spent Playing With Boats

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Dave Irish sailed into Harbor Springs as a boy and never left. Photo: Irish Boat Shop.

By Howard Meyerson

In the resort community of Harbor Springs, MI, the name Dave Irish brings nods of affirmation. Accolades often follow about the 79-year-old entrepreneur who sailed into port as a six-year-old boy with his family; who grew up working on boats in his father’s shop; and who, at 24 years old, would open a boat shop of his own.

His legacy, Irish Boat Shop, is well-known in boating circles as a high-quality, family-run boat yard and marina. It opened in 1961 on the sheltered waters of Little Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan. Irish built a second a decade later on Lake Charlevoix where he now offers dockage at two sites.

If asked, Irish admits to being a highly-competitive sailor, also a man who has been involved in the upper echelons of Olympic sailing governance. But those who know him say he’s not one to brag.

“I like being around boats and water and particularly enjoy the company of people who have and use boats,” declares Irish, a tall and lanky, soft-spoken man with a penchant for laughter and enjoying life. “Our customers are here because they want to play with their boats, and my job is facilitating them having a good time. I’ve never felt burdened doing the job I call ‘playing with boats.’ It’s not like a lawyer who almost never has a job that anyone wants because it’s fun. Everyone they see has a problem.”

Boats to play with and things to do

Irish is sitting in his sunny, second story marina office overlooking the waters of the bay.  He is dressed in jeans and casual attire, the look of someone who is comfortable with success but without any pretense. Thoughtful and well-spoken, he is known for being civic minded, a man concerned about bettering the community. Irish served as Harbor Springs’ Mayor for six years. Prior to that he had a seat on city council, and helped found the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation, along with the Little Traverse Conservancy, a regional land trust established to protect natural areas nearby.

Despite his age and having retired as CEO in 2007, Irish still comes into the office every day. There are boats to play with and things to do. His 25-year-old grandson, Colin Texter, the company’s marketing and sales coordinator, has his routine down.

“He’s in every day from 9 to 12 and 1:30 to 5:30,” notes Texter, the youngest of 10 grandsons – and the only one employed by the company. “Professionally, he is very wise and very conservative in his business practices, but personally, he is very friendly and has a positive attitude. It’s in the way he carries himself. He’s not boastful or flashy.”

Irish laughs when he hears of his grandson’s comments. “Evil child,” he quips with a gleam in his eye.

This excerpt is taken from a profile in the August 2016 issue of Lakeland Boating. The entire story can be read online for free. See page 42 of the the magazine’s  digital edition.

 

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River Restoration: Is it Good for Birds?

Great Blue Heron (Andrea Westmoreland)

Great Blue Herons don’t disappear when rivers are restored, but they may be harder to see. Photo: Andrea Westmoreland.

By Howard Meyerson

When Doug Klein goes birdwatching along the Thornapple River near Nashville, he often is pleased about what he finds. Birds are numerous, particularly at the nearby Nashville site where a 155-year-old dam stood until 2009, when it was removed.

Wet meadows now grow upstream, an area formerly under water. Wetland birds visit marshy areas and waterfowl are plentiful in the river. For Klein, an avid birder and eBird  lister, Nashville is a very productive spot.

“It’s a pretty nice place to go,” notes Klein, a mechanical engineer and Hastings resident. “Fifty-nine species have been reported there on eBird. I’ve seen 57 of them. We see Trumpeter Swans, Rusty Blackbirds, various songbirds, and Sandhill Cranes. One good find last May was a Philadelphia Vireo. Those are getting hard to find. On some mud flats you might see Killdeer or Lesser Yellowlegs. It’s an interesting place to find a variety of birds.”

Old dams coming out

Aging dams around Michigan are being removed with regularity. Some are torn down to improve fish passage, or to reduce water temperatures for species like trout. The Nashville Dam was removed to improve water quality for warm water fish. Others are demolished because they outlive their purpose and may be expensive to repair and maintain.

No matter what the reason, proponents of dam removal maintain that river restoration is good ecologically. Allowing a river to resume its natural flow, depth, and width yields benefits for fish and stream organisms, for animals in the area, and for regional biodiversity. Yet some birdwatchers say they worry when dams come down, when impoundments are drained, and when the landscape is radically altered. Flooded areas provide homes for important or favored bird species. Continue reading

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Three Lake Huron parks are Michigan’s newest ‘dark sky preserves’

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The night sky is being preserved so people can enjoy seeing the cosmos. Photo: Pixabay.

By Howard Meyerson

Sitting under a dark sky full of stars can be magical, a glimpse of the sublime and a sight to behold. Yet, many never really experience it. Their communities shine too much light into the night sky.

But three Lake Huron shoreline parks now will offer that experience year-round. Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation in February designating Thompson’s Harbor, Negwegon and Rockport state parks as dark sky preserves.

“On a good night at Thompson’s Harbor, you can see 4,000 stars with the naked eye and the circumpolar constellations,” notes Blake Gingrich, Michigan Department of Natural Resources supervisor for Thompson’s Harbor and Rockport, both found between Roger’s City and Alpena.

“It’s a great way to get people out at night. We were trying to figure out how get them off the couch and out with an astronomer to learn the night sky, even the basics. We want people to experience it and have lifelong memories of (seeing) a dark sky.”  Continue reading

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Protecting wildlife in Detroit’s urban core

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More than 300 migratory bird species stop over at the refuge on the Detroit River. Photo: Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

Toiling daily in the urban industrial zone adjacent to the Detroit River, John Hartig’s work is never finished. There are wetlands to restore and invasive plants to control, remnant pollution issues to resolve, and fish and bird species to protect.

Hartig helped create a federal conservation program in Detroit to protect important habitat in its urban core. He manages the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, a joint-venture with Canada established by the U.S. Congress in 2001. It is the only international wildlife refuge in North America.

“The Detroit River was one of the most polluted rivers in the U.S. back in the 1960s and ’70s,” notes Hartig, author of “Bringing Conservation to Cities,” published in 2014 by Ecovision World Monograph Series. “Most (people) thought of it as a working river that supported commerce and transportation. We thought if we could give it this designation that we could do something special for it.” Continue reading

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