MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Consumers Energy Foundation, with support from the Henry E. and Consuelo S. Wenger Foundation, is awarding $70,000 to Northern Michigan University in partnership with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for efforts to bring back Arctic grayling to Michigan waters.
The money will fund an evaluation of several types of chambers for rearing Arctic grayling eggs in Michigan streams. The remote site incubator designs were successfully used in Montana streams and worked well there but successful operation is less certain in Michigan streams. The project will determine which will be most efficient and reliable for Michigan’s stream environments.
We spoke with Troy Zorn, Research Biologist with the Michigan DNR Fisheries Division, who spoke about the different methods they are using to make this a successful attempt. “One of the potential game changers this time is the state of Montana started using the remote site incubator method. What that involves is incubating the Grayling’s eggs on the stream water. It’s possible that it allows the young Grayling to imprint and establish residency in the stream.”
Zorn describes the incubator method that has been tested in Montana.
Previously the fish would be stocked in the streams, then not survive. Researchers have learned more about the environmental conditions Grayling prefer and how they interact with introduced species.
“Grayling spawn in the Spring,” said Zorn. “We’re looking for options that are quick to set up, reliable, and might produce results just as effectively.”
The DNR has built a prototype incubator basket at the hatchery in Harvey. It is a rectangular, metal and mesh basket with dividers to keep the eggs from shifting around. PVC pontoons will allow the basket to float and keep water flowing through.
Another approach will be a commercial product where it will hold one egg per chamber.
Researchers have developed methods for rating Michigan stream reaches based on how suitable their habitats are for Grayling.
“We don’t have an unlimited supply of eggs or anything. So we are looking at introducing them where the habitat is optimal. They need cold water, so it has to be cold all the way through Summer. We’re looking for rivers that have suitable habitat for the fry, the juvenile Grayling and the adults and for spawning.”
The DNR is trying to find the right habitat and fish community to minimize competition and predation and increase their chances of success.
“We’re not going to be working with Grayling, because we don’t have Grayling that are ready to spawn yet. So we’re working probably with Walleye eggs and fry. Walleye spawn in the Spring just like Grayling do. The size of eggs is almost identical to a Grayling egg,” said Zorn.
“This is the second contribution we have received from the Consumers Energy Foundation since we started our initiative to bring Arctic grayling back to Michigan,” said DNR Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter. “With their partnership we are able to get closer to meeting our goals and seeing success.”
“Consumers Energy has been serving Michigan communities for 135 years, and we’re committed to supporting organizations that strengthen environmental stewardship and work to preserve and protect our state’s amazing natural resources,” said Carolyn Bloodworth, Consumers Energy Foundation secretary/treasurer. “We’re proud to partner with other Michigan organizations to bring native Arctic grayling back to their home waters.”
“Northern Michigan University is looking forward to collaborating on this project with the Michigan DNR,” said NMU assistant professor Brandon Gerig. “It’s exciting that the data generated from this project will directly inform Arctic grayling restoration efforts in Michigan.”
The Arctic grayling was the only abundant stream salmonid (fish in the salmon family) in the Lower Peninsula but has not been present since the 1930s. The Michigan Arctic Grayling Initiative’s goal is to establish self-sustaining populations of the species throughout its historical range in Michigan. More than 40 partners are collaborating on the reintroduction. Members of Michigan’s Artic Grayling Initiative meet to identify knowledge gaps and to discuss management and stocking strategies and public outreach.
For more information, visit MiGrayling.org