The first of hopefully many recreational fishing workshops brought together more than 40 researchers, managers, stakeholders, and anglers last week to Hammond Marina in Indiana to learn about food web research, updates on fisheries, and ongoing monitoring in southern Lake Michigan.
Mitchell Zischke, IISG research and extension fishery specialist, organized the event.
“I have presented research at similar workshops for Lake Huron hosted by Michigan Sea Grant. These workshops were well attended and a great opportunity for anglers, scientists, managers, and others to interact,” said Zischke. “I wanted to develop a similar program for southern Lake Michigan, particularly in light of recent ecosystem and fishery changes like the declining populations of alewife.”
The five speakers hailed from NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, U.S. Geological Survey Great Lakes Science Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Ball State University, and Illinois Natural History Survey.
Mitchell Zischke, IISG research and extension fishery specialist, pictured on the right, organized the event.
Topics included recent changes in the base of the food web, status and trends of prey fish, mass-marking of Chinook salmon and lake trout, long-term monitoring of yellow perch, and angler surveys and the recreational fishery focusing on the Illinois waters of Lake Michigan.
Howard Petroski, known as “Captain Ski,” ran Paradise Charters out of East Chicago for 25 years until it shut down about 14 years ago. Even though he now just fishes recreationally, he still follows what’s happening in Lake Michigan.
“What they’re showing with the decline of the perch was pretty obvious, but now it’s more obvious that they showed it on the charts,” Petroski said.
According to Zischke, this first workshop just scratched the surface on topics relevant to anglers in southern Lake Michigan.
“There were actually more people willing to present than I could fit in the workshop agenda. We hope that these workshops can become an annual event in both Indiana and Illinois, that way we can continue to provide anglers and other lake-users with up-to-date information on the Lake Michigan fishery and ecosystem as a whole. In fact, attendees at our recent workshop said that they can’t wait for the next one!”
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a part of University of Illinois Extension and Purdue Extension.
This story originally appeared on the Illinois Natural History Survey website.
When clearing out the foliage from an aquarium or backyard water garden this fall, keep water hyacinth and other invasive plants out of streams, rivers, and other waterways.
Water hyacinth has been described as “the world’s worst aquatic weed,” lovely in the garden, but a nuisance in the river, according to Andy Casper, director of the Illinois River Biological Station of the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois. At this time of year, the plant can be spread easily.
“Water hyacinth is the aquatic version of kudzu,” Casper said. “It grows faster than any other plant competing with it, quickly taking over a pond or river-bed.”
As the plant spreads out over a water surface, it blocks the sun, so native plants can’t survive. Fish that once hid amongst the underwater plants to hunt for their prey and young fish that hide from predators experience a changed habitat.
Additionally, in the fall as the water hyacinth dies, it sinks to the river bottom, decomposes, taking the oxygen out of the water in the process. Too little oxygen can lead to large fish kills in the winter when oxygen is naturally in short supply.
Deliberately dumping water hyacinth plants in the waterways will cause the plant to spread, as well as composting plants too close to a river, stream, or drainage ditch. Backyard flooding can also cause the invasive plant to spread into nearby surface water areas.
In one case in which plants spread, an individual composted water hyacinth plants on a pile at the edge of a yard located close to the river. The result was a big pile of water hyacinth down river, Casper said.
“All it takes is one good growing season, and the plants take over,” he said.
In a survey of the entire Illinois River from Hennepin, Illinois to Joliet, Illinois by airplane and boat, INHS staff discovered 15 individual water hyacinth beds in the river. In addition, fish surveys also showed that whole water hyacinth seeds were present in the digestive tracts of carp, indicating a threat of dispersal of the seeds to other areas. Seeds were present in 27 percent of the digestive tracts of the common carp examined, regardless of their proximity to water hyacinth beds.
For proper disposal of water hyacinth, place plants in a plastic garbage bag and throw them away. Keep all plant parts away from waterbodies because the seeds are tiny and can be missed by the naked eye.
Water hyacinth is an economically important plant for the water gardening industry. For this reason, the sale of water hyacinth has not yet been prohibited by the State of Illinois, as the debate continues on whether it survives a cold winter, according to Pat Charlebois, INHS aquatic ecologist. Many states, and the City of Chicago have prohibited the sale of this plant.
Water hyacinth is just one of many invasive aquatic plants that should not be discarded in waterways. Hydrilla, a formerly common aquarium plant, is another plant that carries a financial toll when it spreads uncontrolled. Plants such as these clog waterways, impeding boat navigation. With government cleanup, millions of dollars may be spent, and recreational areas may be closed, reducing recreation-based incomes.
“Hydrilla is such an aggressive plant and spreads so quickly that it can take years to completely remove it in lakes and rivers,” Charlebois said. “Because of this, the State of Illinois has an early detection and rapid response plan in place in case hydrilla shows up in an area.”
Charlebois and colleague Greg Hitzroth, INHS outreach specialist, are seeking to change the behavior of people who purchase and use plants for outdoor water gardens and indoor aquariums, encouraging them to dispose of all aquatic plants in sealed plastic bags in the trash. Consumers can find a list of Illinois’ invasive plants at TakeAim.org. The State of Illinois regulates some plants, but others, which are not regulated, can be just as much of a nuisance.
Consumers often look to retailers for advice on which plants to purchase and how to care for and dispose of them.
“We partner with retailers, educating them not only on which species should not be sold, but also giving them alternatives,” Hitzroth said. “We have had success with this effort because most retailers want to do the right thing.”
There’s a loophole in these efforts, though.
“A huge market for aquatic plants is offered for sale online, which can be difficult to regulate,” Charlebois said. “This is a sticky wicket because retailers in another state may not know which plants cannot be sold or shipped to customers in Illinois.”
Charlebois and Hitzroth have been working with wholesalers, retailers, scientists, hobbyists, consumers, and others and attending hobbyists’ tradeshows to create outreach material that aims to prevent the spread of aquatic invaders in trade.
They also worked on a statewide campaign about invasive species. Part of that effort is the Release Zero campaign, which aims to provide suggested alternatives to release plants based on published guidelines for teachers and water garden hobbyists from the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force.
More information about aquatic invaders in the market place (AIM) can be found at TakeAIM.org. Alternatives to the release of aquatics in trade can be found at ReleaseZero.org.
Hundreds of endangered mussels originally residing in the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania have been relocated to the Vermillion river in Illinois over the last several years, and the project appears to be a great success.
From the Environmental Almanac:
“Over the past three years, scientists from the Illinois Natural History Survey have translocated hundreds of mussels from the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania (where they lived beneath a bridge slated for demolition) to sites on the Middle Fork and Salt Fork of the Vermilion River.
The two species of mussels involved, clubshells and northern riffleshells, are both classified as ‘endangered’ by the federal government, and by dint of that status they are subjects of recovery plans coordinated by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Those plans call for them to be reestablished throughout their historical range, which includes Illinois…
During the day’s work, a total of 286 tagged mussels were located, just over half of the ones placed there. ‘That’s about what we would expect,’ explained Jeremy Tiemann, the Natural History Survey field biologist who is leading the translocation effort in Illinois. ‘Others may have been so close together or so deep the reader didn’t pick them up. It’s also possible some moved up or downstream a little ways.’”
Follow the link above to learn more about the project.
IISG’s science writer, Anjanette Riley, is at the 2013 International Association for Great Lakes Research conference at Purdue University. She’ll be blogging from the sessions all week providing an inside look at the newest research on the health of the Great Lakes. Here’s today’s post:
“There is more food for Asian carp in Lake Michigan than people thought. In a morning filled with new insights into these invasive species’ biology and potential impact in the Great Lakes, this fact rang the loudest for me. I have read some of the research in recent years speculating that Asian carp could not survive in much of the Great Lakes, which have less of the phytoplankton and zooplankton than the ravenous eaters need. What my fellow session attendees and I learned this morning, though, is that the plankton population has been underestimated. There are more–much more–of the smallest species living in the nearshore waters of Lake Michigan than previously believed.
According to researchers from the Illinois Natural History Survey, the cause of the miscalculation is a common testing method that uses a filter too large to trap many of the microscopic species in the lake. Additional testing measures show that the number of some plankton species found in the lake is roughly the same as in rivers where Asian carp are known to thrive, like the Ohio and Missouri Rivers. And there are plankton species in the lake that are not found in many of these waterways. Taken together, this means that likelihood that Asian carp can make Lake Michigan their home may be higher than previous data has indicated.
The session this morning also taught me that carp will branch away from their favorite dish to eat the particulates from decomposed animals and plants that line the floors of lakes and rivers. These exist in much higher numbers than plankton and their stock is continuously replenished as aquatic matter dies. Although it is still unknown whether Asian carp would choose this food over others (or eat it only when there is nothing else), this could mean that plankton in the Great Lakes may not have to bear the brunt of the carp’s huge diet alone if the invasive fish were ever to take up residence.”