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Entries in Lake Michigan (40)

Friday
Oct172014

Ground Zero for Asian Carp Invasion

Havana, Ill., is Ground Zero for the Asian carp invasion, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. On the Illinois River, it’s about 200 miles south of Lake Michigan and 120 miles north of the Mississippi.

“You find more carp per acre, per mile of river, tan nearly anyplace else in the world,” says Kevin Irons, DNR’s Asian carp program director.

If you doubt that, check out this video.

Based on electrofishing surveys, bighead and silver carp now account for about 60 percent of the fish biomass in that stretch of the river. That means native species have declined dramatically because the exotics outcompete them for food and habitat.

And peaceful boat rides are a thing of the past because of silver carp, which go airborne when startled.

“People have been hit and seriously injured,” says DNR’s Matt O’Hara. “I know there have been some cases of broken noses and jaws.

“Pretty distressing when you come out here and you’re looking for native fish, and all you see is invasive Asian carp,” he adds.

Wednesday
May212014

More on Wisconsin's World-Class Smallmouth Fishery

Guide Dale Stroschein with two of the many quality smallmouth bass that we caught in a small bay on the Lake Michigan side of Door County. Photo by Robert Montgomery

The waters of eastern Wisconsin have been garnering lots of attention these days for their spectacular smallmouth bass fishing.

First, Bassmaster ranked the Sturgeon Bay portion of Lake Michigan’s Green Bay as its No. 1 fishery for 2014. It’s on the western side of the Door County peninsula, which separates Green Bay from the rest of the lake.

Reinforcing that designation this month, a smallie weighing 8.29 pounds was caught in Green Bay.

Additionally, angler Ben Royce caught and released what could have been a state record bass in an unnamed lake in the Milwaukee area. Record is 9.1, caught in 1950. Based on measurements, Royce’s fish could have weighed 9.6 pounds.

Now here’s the rest of the story: The eastern side of that peninsula isn’t bad either. In fact, seven years ago, I experienced my best day of bass fishing ever in the shallow waters of a little bay there. Guide Dale Stroschein and I were forced to the eastern side by unrelenting westerly winds that made fishing the western side difficult and dangerous.

Since I’ve been a B.A.S.S. Senior Writer for nearly 30 years and have fished for bass all over the United States, as well as in Mexico and Canada, that’s saying something.

In Why We Fish, I write about that day in an essay entitled, appropriately enough “The Best Day.”

Activist Angler with a Wisconsin smallmouth bass on "The Best Day."

Here’s an excerpt:

But they also hammered spinnerbaits and wallowed all over surface baits. They struck so hard on the former that they nearly pulled the rod from my hands a couple of times.

The setting --- calm, shallow water --- and the bite reminded me of fishing for cruising redfish in Louisiana or Florida.

The smaller ones were 3 pounds, and we weighed several that checked in at 5 ½ pounds or more. Doubles were common, and we often caught three, four, or even five fish on successive casts. We didn’t keep count, but we certainly caught more than 50 quality smallmouths in just three to four hours of fishing.

Even for my veteran guide, the bite was extraordinary. He took a break from the action to call a friend and tell him about it.

As the bite finally slowed a bit, Dale wrestled a smallmouth that clobbered a topwater while I battled another on a spinnerbait. When his fish neared the boat, I grabbed the net with one hand as I clung to my rod with the other.

Wednesday
Mar122014

Fish Pass Through Electric Barrier

The last line of defense against Asian carp entering Lake Michigan isn’t impenetrable, according to a new report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Fish can pass through the electric barrier unharmed when they get caught in the wakes of barges passing through. And that’s not all. Metal barges can deplete the charge, and small fish aren’t always susceptible.

"Initial findings indicate that vessel-induced residual flows can trap fish and transport them beyond the electrical barriers, and that certain barge configurations may impact barrier electric field strength,” says an interim report based on laboratory and field experiments.

“Additionally, the preliminary (sonar camera) findings identified the potential for small fish (between 2-4 inches in length) to pass the barrier array in large groups, or schools."

The Corps emphasizes that the findings are preliminary, with more work to be done with the barge community and the Coast Guard to see how the barrier can be strengthened.

“There is no evidence that Asian Carp are bypassing the barriers; nor is there any indication Asian carp are in the vicinity of the barriers,” the agency says. “The closest adult Asian carp found in the Illinois River are about 55 miles from Lake Michigan, and no small Asian carp have been observed closer than 131 miles from Lake Michigan.”

Critics point out that water samples taken near the barrier and in a canal on the lake side of the barrier have tested positive for the exotic fish. Plus, poisoning of the canal in 2009 revealed an Asian carp carcass.

Read more here.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Friday
Feb142014

Electric Barrier Is NOT Stopping Fish

Oh, yeah! That electric barrier is going to keep Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan via a manmade connection to the Mississippi River basin.

Or maybe not.

A video obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel shows small fish swimming through the electrified water, just 35 miles downstream from Chicago’s lakeshore.

And no one said that the invaders must be adult fish.

“The only thing holding back the Asian carp at the moment is the electric barrier, but few people beyond Illinois politicians, the canal-dependent barge industry, and the Army Corps are buying the idea that the barrier is doing its job. Many worry the agency's continued confidence in this leaky, last line of defense will take a tragic toll on the Great Lakes, the world's largest freshwater system,” said the newspaper.

Thursday
Feb062014

Invasive Species Threat Goes Both Ways

Mostly resource managers have been concerned about Asian carp invading the Great Lakes through a manmade connection with the Mississippi River basin. But exotics already in the lakes also could migrate out and spread into rivers throughout the Midwest, if the electric barrier separating the two systems is not 100 percent effective.

One of those is the Eurasian ruffe, a small perchlike fish that entered Lake Superior during the mid 1980s in the ballast water of European freighters. It then spread to Lakes Michigan and Huron, and, this past summer, researchers found ruffe DNA in Chicago’s Calumet Harbor.

“The Eurasian ruffe is a relatively small fish that produces a lot of eggs and reaches maturity very quickly,” said Lindsay Chadderton, Aquatic Invasive Species Director for The Nature Conservancy’s Great Lakes Project. “They feed from the bottom of the food chain, and they’re going to compete with native and introduced species dependent on the same fauna.”

On the positive side, Illinois officials emphasized that no live ruffe have been captured in the harbor. They said that the DNA could have come from a bait bucket or ballast tanks, not an actual fish.

Still, even the possibility that the ruffe could be poised to spread inland underscores how vulnerable both the lakes and the Mississippi River basin are to invasive species and the need for an effective two-way barrier, according to The Nature Conservancy and other conservation groups.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)