Fisheries staffs to study St. Mary’s River fish community

(Photo by Tom Pink)

I’m not sure about those of you in the Lower Peninsula, but here in the U.P., we’ve had one of the coolest springs in memory.

On the last day of May, my furnace was still kicking on, occasionally. The lilacs were just beginning to blossom. Tulips were still in full bloom all over town, and even some daffodils.

According to fishing lore, the lilac bloom corresponds to the walleye boom in spring. I believe that goes for northern pike, too. In my neck of the woods, whitefish start biting as soon as the ice goes out, but June is usually a really good month to catch them. Big water fishermen down off DeTour, where the St. Mary’s River spills into northern Lake Huron, will see the salmon and lake trout fishing pick up.

And speaking of the St. Mary’s River, you should know that fisheries staff from several government agencies will be conducting a survey of the entire fish community in the 75-mile-long river this summer. When I say “several” agencies, I mean it – the river is managed by the St. Mary’s Fisheries Task Group, which includes representatives from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Colleges and universities on both sides of the St. Mary’s participate as resource members, providing manpower and expertise through faculty and students. They’ll be setting survey nets throughout the river during the month of August, hoping to capture a variety of the river’s species to record data on abundance, growth, mortality and size of fish populations.

A press release from the DNR notes that the St. Mary’s is a “very large and complex waterbody” that hosts a wide variety of fish. It’s true. When I visited a DNR fisheries crew in the river a couple years ago, one of the trap nets they pulled had a whopping 17 species of fish in it.

Fisheries biologist Neal Godby noted that a great number of anglers fish the St. Mary’s, but when they’re spread out over 75 miles, you don’t see big concentrations of fishermen except at certain times of year, such as spring walleye and perch runs and when lake herring and whitefish are on a mayfly feeding frenzy in July.

So if you’re in the St. Mary’s in August, when the walleye action heats up again, watch for assessment nets marked by buoys. According to the DNR, nets will be set overnight and lifted the next day.

Meanwhile, check out the St. Mary’s River Fisheries Assessment Plan and 2006 survey report at the Great Lakes Fishery Commission website: http://www.glfc.org/lakecom/lhc/SMRFTG.php

Categories: Blog Content, Michigan – Tom Pink, News, Walleye

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