LAKE MICHIGAN COMMITTEE
Hilton Milwaukee Center
March 19-20, 2003
Chairman Tom Gorenflo (CORA)
Vice Chair Bill Horns (WDNR)
Brian Breidert (INDNR)
Jim Dexter (MDNR)
Tom Trudeau (ILDNR).
Highlights (lowlights): The proportion of female yellow perch has improved to 30% of the total population in Illinois waters, and 60% in Michigan and Indiana. However, yellow perch population abundance remains low; catch rates are the lowest since the mid-90s (mid-80s in some areas). Zebra mussel biomass has declined somewhat in certain areas. Except for a few small areas, Diporiea are now absent. Bloater chub abundance has decreased since 1992. Alewife condition has continued to decline. Smelt abundance is at an all time low since 1973. Sea lamprey are more abundant, and wounding rates on lake trout are now higher than in Lakes Huron or Superior.
New initiatives: Increased sea lamprey control effort is expected to decrease wounding in 2004. The LMC has initiated a process to revise the 1985 Lake Trout Rehabilitation Plan for Lake Michigan. The Technical Committee has been reorganized to allow greater use of specialized task groups. The LMC and Great Lakes Fishery Trust will cooperate in promoting sturgeon rehabilitation efforts.
1. Lake Sturgeon issues.
a) Potential to receive funding for sturgeon restoration/research projects.
Jack Bails (Private Sector Consultants) was invited to discuss the potential for the Great Lakes Fishery Trust (Trust) to fund specific sturgeon restoration projects as identified by the LMC structure. The Trust has a specific sturgeon category for annual grant funding, and has already funded numerous sturgeon projects. Most of these projects are ongoing and encompass many of the know areas of sturgeon research. Therefore FY-2003 grants might be aimed at more specific, "directed" research projects that would be proposed under the collaborative efforts of the LMC. There is an April funding cycle, which could be bypassed if the LMC needed additional time. The next funding cycle is in July. The LMC indicated it would discuss the formation of a Task Group to address this opportunity.
b) Formation of a Lake Sturgeon Task Group.
Jim Dexter (MDNR) distributed a proposal for formation of a Task Group that would focus on sturgeon rehabilitation efforts in Lake Michigan. After much discussion regarding structure, the LMC approved the formation of a Task Group; naming Rob Elliot (USFWS) as chair, and Ed Baker (MDNR), Fred Binkowski (U of W-Milwaukee), Ron Bruch (WDNR), and Marty Holtgren (LRBOI) as steering committee members. Additional participation will be defined in the Terms of Reference for the task group. Jim agreed to prepare final charges for the Task Group, which at a minimum will include:
- Develop rehabilitation research proposals (based on impediments to sturgeon rehabilitation) by June for the July funding cycle of the Trust. Particular attention should be given to potential projects that are specific to rehabilitation activities (as opposed to additional research).
- Advise ASAP of any concerns with current and proposed stocking programs.
- Develop lakewide rehabilitation and management plan that is compatible with Fish Community Objectives, and recognizes known impediments.
c) Sturgeon stocking activities/strategies.
Participants provided an update of current stocking plans. Wisconsin has a proposal to stock an undisclosed number of sturgeon in the Milwaukee and Manitowoc Rivers in 2003, while the Shedd Aquarium (Illinois) has a proposal to stock about 200 older aged fish per year beginning in 2003. Several participants noted genetic concerns related to these proposals, i.e with remnant populations so low in the basin, even small numbers of stocked sturgeon could have significant impact to the genetic integrity of the remnant population. Ultimately, any sturgeon stocking initiatives should follow the Lake Committee consultative process.
2. Prey fish surveys and associated data compilation.
There will be a multi-agency effort to conduct acoustic and bottom trawl forage surveys in 2003. LMC will sponsor a Coordination Activities Program funding proposal in 2003 for processing acoustic survey data from previous years.
3. Yellow Perch Task Group.
LMC discussed status of previous charges to the YPTG, and outlined future direction. Previous charges included:
- Development of a Lakewide Assessment Plan - should be completed by December 2003.
- Produce a summary report that addresses the original hypotheses related to yellow perch recruitment failure - this has been completed.
- Identify additional research/assessment needs - still ongoing. The group is examining abiotic (e.g. offshore transport of fry) as well as biotic factors.
It was also noted that yellow perch recruitment remains very low, and is supported largely by the 1998 year-class. Some LMC members expressed concern that present regulations might not adequately protect the remaining spawning stock, and emergency measures could be needed in 2004. Also, it was noted that recent lakewide assessments and associated modeling work could provide the basis for evaluating the effectiveness of harvest regulations. Given this scenario, the LMC provided the YPTG with the following additional charge to be completed by October 1, 2003:
a) complete a review of assessment data colleted during 2003
b) advise the LMC about potential risks to Lake Michigan yellow perch populations if current harvest regulations are maintained.
The primary objective of this additional charge is to allow the LMC to develop alternative regulation strategies, if needed and appropriate, in a timely manner.
4. Lake trout rehabilitation plan revision - Lake Trout Task Group.
The Lake Trout Task Group has completed most of its original charge, except for the segment: "Review and/or develop criteria for classification of rehabilitation zones and the selection of stocking sites". The LTTG has been reluctant to tackle the stocking segment of the charge because it is so strongly linked to an actual Plan revision process. The LMC concurred and charged the LTTG to begin revising the rehabilitation plan. The LMC requested a draft of the revision by March 2004.
The LMC had previously (October 22, 2002) developed criteria and "sideboards" to guide the LTTG in the revision process. These sideboards will be incorporated into an updated charge to the LTTG. The sideboards addressed the following issues:
- Term of the plan
- Goal statement(s)
- Experimental design
- Agency responsibilities
- Key agency issues related to stocking (numbers, locations)
- Agency commitments to mortality targets
- Future research priorities
5. Lake trout stocking in 2003.
The LMC briefly discussed lake trout stocking plans for 2003, and were briefed in federal hatchery issues by Bob Adair (USFWS). Tom Gorenflo (CORA) proposed, on an interim basis, to discontinue the Richard's Reef stocking in the northern refuge, and move those fish to another reef location within the refuge. The reason for this proposal is the poor return rate of fish stocked on Richard's Reef. LMC asked the LTTG to recommend an alternative site for stocking in spring 2003. (Subsequently, these fish were redirected to High Island with concurrence of the LTTG and LMC).
The LMC also inquired on the size-at-stocking experiment, since the decision to stock larger yearlings in the late- 1990's effectively reduced the total number of lake trout available for stocking. At this point, there does not seem to be a survival advantage for the larger yearlings vs. the "normal" sized yearlings in Lake Michigan, but there does seem to be a survival advantage in Lake Huron. USFWS, in conjunction with the LMTC and LHTC, are examining the difference in survival between lakes, as well as other aspects of the fish rearing/stocking process that could be modified to produce the maximum numbers of high quality yearlings.
6. Salmonid stocking update for 2003.
LMC representatives provided updates of their respective stocking plans for 2003. There were relatively minor adjustments for some species within each jurisdiction, but overall, salmonid stocking in 2003 should remain below stocking levels set in 1999.
7. Priorities for the Lake Michigan Technical Committee.
Priorities for LMTC activities were discussed and included:
a) Identifying and prioritizing research needs, including modifications or updates to the current list (can be found on www.glfc.org).
b) Organizing and evaluating ongoing and completed research projects pertinent to Lake Michigan. Considering the flurry of research projects on Lake Michigan in recent years, couple with the expected funding of numerous additional projects, it is becoming increasingly necessary to collate and catalog these projects.
c) Update the LMTC work plan/priorities.
d) Finalize and maintain Terms of Reference for LMTC and Task Groups. Dave Clapp presented a proposal for reorganizing and structuring the LMTC and associated Task Groups. LMC endorsed his suggestions.
e) Issues of concern: salmonid reproduction, lake trout rehabilitation, yellow perch recruitment and population dynamics, examination and development of fish health indicators and measures, etc.
8. CLC Task Force of Technical Committee Chairs.
The LMC endorsed Dave Clapp's proposal revitalize a task force of technical committee chairs, a group that would advise the CLC, and individual Lake Committees, on technical matters of interest to more than one lake. LMC will discuss with CLC.
9. LMC Officers
Bill Horns (WDNR) will serve as chair, and Jim Dexter (MDNR) will serve as
Vice Chair through the March 2005 annual meeting.
Lake Michigan Committee
Ad Hoc Meeting January 13, 2003
Present: Jim Dexter (MDNR), Brian Breidert (IDNR) Tom Trudeau (ILDNR), Bill Horns (WDNR). Absent- Tom Gorenflo (CORA). Notes: Dexter
The committee took the opportunity of being present at the Lake Michigan Technical committee meeting (at the USGS Great Lakes Science Center) to get together for a short meeting.
1. LMC charges to LMTC: Jim asked if there were any charges that we as a group needed to address. Does there need to a firmer charge provided to the YEPTG? Tom T indicated that we really needed a lakewide assessment protocol (similar to lake trout) for the YEPTG, but Brian indicated that Ball State would not be willing to change their collection methods due to the long trend database they have developed. There will be a presentation at the GLFC Upper Lakes meeting in March to review and discuss the YEP assessment. We did agree however to review the YEPTG charge in March, and determine if there were any other potential changes that need to be made. We could also at least suggest that the TG discuss the possibility of lakewide standardization, and problems with attaining that goal in mind.
2. Dexter asked if any other comments were received by Illinois on the potential sinking of the Straits of Mackinaw. Tom indicated that Michigan was the only agency to ask that a permit be denied. Jim asked that in the future that the LMC provide a coordinated response to these types of actions if possible, and if there was enough time. In this instance there was very little lead time. Jim indicated that there is an international position statement and guidelines on the creation of reefs that everyone should look at (it specifically discusses the sinking of vessels). It is GLFC special publication 90-2.
3. RV Sturgeon. Retro fitting of the vessel should be accomplished in 2004. It's been slow to progress. We would like an update from USGS on the boat at the executive meeting. Tom T agreed to arrange this. The Blue ribbon Panel of the CLC will be addressing the large vessel program.
4. Windmills in Illinois? Tom T indicated that this is very preliminary; internally there is no word on this. Marg has been forwarding information on similar projects that are in the development stage on the east coast. Threats to the Lake ecosystem may be difficult to assess, and may revolve primarily around acoustic interference in the water column. Wildlife will have a better case with disturbance and attraction of migratory birds.
5. Sturgeon task group formation. Discussion on the proposal of the STG occurred. There was discussion on the use of co-chairs. Jim reminded the group that they nixed co-chairs for the LTTG, so should this potential group be treated differently? Potential chairs cover sturgeon work either inland or in the Lake. In the proposal presented at the LMTC, there were three stated purposes for the proposed sturgeon task group. We recommended that purpose number 1 be changed to: "Recommend lakewide long term lake sturgeon rehabilitation and management goals and strategies, consistent with fish community objectives, for consideration by the LMC". Everything else in the proposal looked good.
Because this proposal came to the LMC, rather than vice versa, we agreed to recommend that the interested individuals (Rob Elliot, Ron Bruch, Fred Binkowski, Marty Holtgren, and Ed Baker) decide on the committee membership and chair, and then relay this information back to the LMC. At this point the proposed activities of the TG should be used as the charge. (Since this meeting, Dexter had a Lake Michigan Basin team meeting which had a discussion on the rearing and stocking of sturgeon in impoundments of the Manistee River. There was considerable discussion on how this fit in with Michigan's Sturgeon Management plan, but then also further discussion with how this particular issue could be used as a catalyst to provide a charge from the LMC to move forward with development of a multi-state Lake Michigan Lake sturgeon management plan that would utilize both Wisconsin's and Michigan's plans, and involve Illinois and Indiana. This would be timely as there appears to be discrepancies in what some managers would like to accomplish in terms of sturgeon rehabilitation (stocked for fishing, vs. strictly rehab, and the issue of stocking above dams
6. Tom T indicated that Ill will be down 100,000 coho due to poor eye up. He requested replacement with steelhead. Using the connect model and estimations of forage consumption, these 100,000 coho could be replaced with up to 130,500 steelhead. Illinois intends to substitute 25,000 Skamania and 25,000 Arlee strain rbt for the 100,000 coho loss. This is well within the guidelines for maintaining predator numbers. No one had a problem with this. Dexter indicated he still needed to do an "accounting" of our stockings compared to 1999, which was decided to be the "baseline" year.
7. Acoustics survey of Lake Michigan. How do we best express our sentiment/concern of this subject, being that it is a priority for all of us? Should Tom G. make a statement in his summation to GLFC in June or in March at the Upper Lakes meeting, in order for it to become a part of the record? Tom G. did make a summation of this at the 2002 GLFC annual meeting, mostly in regards to the GLSC's failure to provide this service (trawling also). Tom G. indicated (through email) that the LMC should continue to make their feelings known.
8. Lake trout task group. We need to formalize the final charge for the group. We need to provide a clear, concise charge within two weeks. More discussion on this will occur at the Upper Lakes meeting in Milwaukee.