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Michigan’s Fisheries Research Vessels Help Gather Information to Study The Great Lakes

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Michigan’s four fisheries research vessels are back on the water to conduct annual surveys of the Great Lakes, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

“These fisheries research vessels are based in Marquette, Alpena, Charlevoix and Harrison Township and work throughout the Great Lakes on a wide variety of assessments and evaluations,” said Gary Whelan, DNR Fisheries Division research manager. “Operations start as soon as ice has cleared from the lakes and continue well into November.”

The R/V Lake Char, launched in 2007, focuses efforts on Lake Superior’s self-sustaining lake trout populations. Information collected by this vessel is used to generate annual lake trout harvest quotas to ensure the continued health of these fish populations and on lake trout sea lamprey wounding rates, a key mortality factor for this species. The latter effort helps to guide sea lamprey control work by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Lake Huron fisheries assessments and evaluations are conducted by the R/V Chinook, which was launched in 1947 and began its research vessel career in 1968. This vessel focuses work on specific assessments of Lake Huron lake trout and walleye populations, as well as broader fisheries assessments in Saginaw Bay and the St. Marys River. The Saginaw Bay evaluations are also conducted jointly with the R/V Channel Cat, which is based in Lake St. Clair at the Fisheries Research Station in Harrison Township.

Assessment and evaluation of fish populations in lakes St. Clair and Erie are conducted by the R/V Channel Cat, which has been in service since 1968. This vessel focuses its sampling on walleye, yellow perch and lake sturgeon in these waters.

On Lake Michigan, the survey vessel (S/V) Steelhead (also in operation since 1968) conducts a variety of fisheries assessments and evaluations, including spring evaluations of adult yellow perch, whitefish, lake trout and Chinook salmon populations.

Later in the summer, the S/V Steelhead teams up with vessels from the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to evaluate lakewide forage fish abundance—critical information for the proper management of trout and salmon in this lake.

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Michigan’s Fisheries Research Vessels Help Gather Information to Study The Great Lakes