2005 Awards

2005 Sport Fishery Development and Management Outstanding SFR Project of the Year

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries – Laurel Bed Lake Restoration

Low pH and unbalanced fish populations severely limited fishing opportunities at Laurel Bed Lake, a 133-hectare impoundment in Russell County, Virginia. The reservoir was constructed in 1967 and a brook trout fishery provided regionally unique fishing opportunities during the 1970’s. Low pH soon limited productivity and the unauthorized stocking of rock bass provided unwanted competition for the brook trout. Rock bass were able to reproduce in the low pH (5.0) water and rapidly overpopulated the lake and became stunted. Competition from the rock bass limited growth of stocked trout fingerlings to the point that the put-grow-and-take management strategy was abandoned. In 1996 the lake was drained for structural repairs and biologists seized the opportunity to reclaim the lake’s fishery. The objectives were: 1) restore the lake’s habitat by increasing pH and acid neutralizing capacity (ANC) to levels that would support a variety of fishes, and 2) establish a fishery that would provide angling opportunities parallel to the physical and aesthetic qualities of the impoundment.

In collaboration with James Madison University, the Virginia DGIF developed a direct liming method for mitigating the low pH water. The method produced rapid and sustained results. The pH in the impoundment remained at or above 6.5 while the inflow remained near 5.0. ANC, which was negative prior to the liming increased to 60 µeq/L. The dosage was increased in 1998 and 1999 and biologist chose to not lime in 2000 to see if the sustained improvements in pH and ANC could persist beyond a year. The pH and ANC remained at suitable levels for two complete seasons and the liming strategy has evolved to applications every other year.

Fingerling brook trout were stocked in 1997 and survival and utilization has been good. Although considerable effort was exerted to eradicate rock bass, they are still present in the reservoir. Smallmouth bass were stocked in 1998 as a means to control rock bass and a new fishery for smallmouth subsequently developed. Angler surveys indicate that this multi-species fishery has resulted in an outstanding catch rate of 2 fish per hour for all species combined as well as a positive Benefit/Cost ratio for the project. An estimated $35,575 angler dollars were expended during a 2001 April-June survey period relative to the <$5,000 cost for liming every other year.

The Sport Fish Restoration program provided the means for restoration of a unique high elevation reservoir fishery through intensive and periodic water treatment (liming), water quality analyses to monitor the acid neutralizing capacity of the lake and stockings to produce quality fisheries for smallmouth bass, rock bass and brook trout. The project benefits extend beyond the Laurel Bed Lake restoration by integrating acidification remediation and multi-species management.

Project Contact: Fred D. Leckie, Jr. 804.367.1000, Fred.Leckie@dgif.virginia.gov

2005 Research and Surveys Outstanding SFR Project of the Year

Lake Michigan Technical Committee, Salmonid Working Group  A multi-agency collaboration to evaluate Chinook salmon management in Lake Michigan

Chinook salmon were introduced to Lake Michigan in 1967 to help control exotic forage fishes such as alewife and rainbow smelt. Chinook salmon now are the dominant predator in the Lake Michigan system, support a world-renowned sport-fishery, and significantly suppress alewife populations. Stocking levels were once highly correlated with harvest; however, the trends in harvest in Lake Michigan are no longer related to stocking alone. Stress mediated diseases such as bacterial kidney disease (BKD) can have strong regulatory influences on Chinook salmon populations, and in 1987-88, Chinook salmon experienced a noticeable disease epizootic and significant decline in abundance. Chinook salmon stocking levels were reduced in 1999 in an attempt to minimize the risk of another population crash. The Lake Michigan fisheries management agencies identified evaluation of Chinook salmon stocking strategies as one of the most significant management needs in the basin.

The Lake Michigan Technical Committee (LMTC) developed a collaborative approach for consistent, long-term, lake-wide evaluation of changes in stocking levels and evaluation of progress toward meeting fish community objectives for Lake Michigan’s salmonid community through the establishment of a Salmonid Working Group (SWG). The SWG was charged with developing a science-based approach to evaluate indices of the Chinook salmon population and to make recommendations for salmonid management. A set of criteria were used to measure the health of the Chinook salmon population and evaluate potential threats to the Lake Michigan predator-prey balance. The biological criteria encompass all currently available data from ongoing assessments including: estimates of abundance from harvest and fishery-independent surveys, contribution from stocking and natural reproduction, changes in growth and ration, trends in forage fish abundance, and indices of fish health. For each biological category, several indices were analyzed (for example, abundance is measured through weir returns, sport fish harvest, and gill net CPE).

The data to evaluate the above indices and population measures are provided primarily by management agency salmonid assessments (creel surveys, weir collections, fishery-independent netting assessments) funded almost entirely through Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration projects. In addition, university researchers, often funded in whole or part through SFR grants, contribute significantly to the effort. Members of the SWG meet regularly to consolidate and analyze assessment data. These meetings are also funded, at least in part, through Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration funds.

The early indicators of population status that were developed suggest that the population is beginning to undergo stress as abundance has increased, size-at-age has decreased, forage levels are likely to decline, and signs of disease are becoming evident. Early collection, interpretation, and action on these data are improving management of Lake Michigan salmonid populations.

The SWG facilitates use of the compiled data in predictive models (bioenergetics, food-web, catch-at-age, decision analysis) that are critical in evaluating possible management scenarios for all salmonines in Lake Michigan.

The surveys and analysis provided by the SWG and funded through SFR monies are helping the Lake Michigan Committee (and other Great Lakes fisheries managers) to define a long-term strategy for manipulation of Chinook salmon populations, and define the relative importance of two potentially conflicting goals (suppressing alewife populations to allow native sport fish rehabilitation, and minimizing the risk to the sport fishery associated with instability in Chinook salmon survival).

The work of the SWG exemplifies successful SFR project work through the development of long-term collaborative assessments (ongoing since 1999) involving multiple states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin), as well as multiple programs (research, management, hatchery sections) within each state. In addition, university researchers, often funded in whole or part through SFR grants, contribute significantly to the effort. USFWS personnel from the Green Bay Fisheries Research Office were also key players, as were other Federal and Tribal agencies, and constituent groups. The SWG is a standing working group of the LMTC and collaborative survey and analysis efforts will continue for the foreseeable future.

This collaborative research effort has improved management of salmonid fisheries in a resource of international importance. The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system in the world, and resources are shared among multiple states and two countries. Salmonids (and in particular Chinook salmon) provide the premier sport fishery in all of the Great Lakes. Annual effort devoted to these fisheries in Lake Michigan can be greater than 8 million angler hours, and greater than 12 million angler days Great Lakes-wide.

Project Contact: David F. Clapp, 231.547.2914 (ext. 237), clappd@michigan.gov

2005 Aquatic Education Outstanding SFR Project of the Year

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission – Kids’ Fishing Clinics

One goal of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), Division of Marine Fisheries Management is to increase public participation in the management and preservation of Florida’s marine resources by heightening awareness of the importance of personal responsibility to the successful management of these resources. The FWC’s marine Kids’ Fishing Clinic (KFC) program started in 1996 in an effort to target Florida’s future marine resource users and encourage responsible behavior and decision-making among them. These free clinics introduce new anglers and non-angling groups to recreational fishing and the marine environment. Since the beginning of the program, over 25,000 children, 15,000 parents, and 4,000 volunteers have participated in 80 clinics statewide.

The Kids’ Fishing Clinic Protocol is online at http://myfwc.com/marine/fishingclinics/index.html. These clinics are unique because they provide more than just equipment and a place to fish. The clinics are a vehicle used to demonstrate to children that fish depend on habitat, how as anglers they are responsible for protecting that habitat, and why fishing regulations are important to follow. These principles are taught using five separate education stations that the participants must complete before they can fish. The five stations are called the good angler, the touch tank (where fish live), fishing tackle, knot tying, and casting. Upon completion of a clinic, participants are able to demonstrate basic angling techniques, such as knot tying and casting, and hopefully, catch a fish. But more importantly, they will be able to identify different types of marine habitat, discuss their importance to sport fish, and explain various actions they can perform while on the water in an effort to be good stewards toward Florida’s marine resources.

Though presented by FWC and SFR, the clinics are not possible without the support of each community. Each clinic has a community sponsor, either an individual or an organization, who is primarily responsible for helping FWC staff organize the KFC in their community. A group of volunteers is also enlisted for each clinic to help set-up and break down the clinic, teach the skills, and aid the participants while fishing. These volunteers come from fishing clubs, civic clubs (e.g., Kiwanis, Jaycees), local businesses, the marine industry, local communities, and other government agencies (e.g., USFWS, NMFS, NASA, Florida DEP).

Additionally, with the help of the KFC sponsors and volunteers, Florida communities purchased over 30,000 rod and reel combos; therefore, not only are participants exposed to the idea of ethical angling, but they can continue the fishing experience after they return home. These free clinics provide an opportunity for anyone, new users and non-users, to experience Florida’s marine resources. These clinics have also been successful at creating an opportunity for FWC and agency stakeholders to work together toward a common goal of increasing education and awareness of resource management. Finally, the clinics are a true demonstration of how communities can benefit from the Sport Fish Restoration “user pays – user benefits” program.

Continual evaluations of KFC’s by participants and volunteers have led to many improvements and help the program evolve to meet the needs of the FWC and its constituency.

Project Contact: Dr. Virginia Vail, 850.922.4340, Virginia.Vail@MyFWC.com

2005 Honorable Mention SFR Project

Lake Michigan Committee, Yellow Perch Task Group – a multi-agency research initiative to identify likely causes for yellow perch recruitment failure in Lake Michigan

Beginning around 1990, yellow perch population density declined in Lake Michigan due in part to an almost complete lack of recruitment. In response to this dramatic decline, the Lake Michigan Yellow Perch Task Group (YPTG) was formed (under the auspices of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s Lake Michigan Committee) to develop a multi-agency research initiative to identify the likely cause(s) for yellow perch recruitment failure. Specifically, the group addressed five factors (predation, zooplankton availability, temperature, mass water movement, and spawning stock characteristics) potentially influencing recruitment of yellow perch.

The Core YPTG membership consists of at least one representative from each management agency on Lake Michigan, plus several researchers with known interest and experience in yellow perch research questions. In addition to this core group, researchers and managers from outside the basin are also invited to participate.

Research is ongoing, but the YPTG has made considerable progress since 1997 toward its objective of identifying the causes of poor yellow perch recruitment in Lake Michigan. We identified and implemented a collaborative approach among a large number of researchers and managers that made significant progress in a short time. Findings to date from the Lake Michigan YPTG research initiative have several significant implications for management of yellow perch populations in Lake Michigan and for fish populations in general.

Coordinated research and assessment activities led to lake-wide improvements in yellow perch stock assessments. Lake-wide coordination and standardization of methods improved compatibility and usefulness of data. Knowledge gained through the development of statistical catch-at-age models is providing managers more explicit and detailed information about yellow perch stocks, as they seek to effectively balance the recreational and commercial demands on these fish populations.

Work by YPTG researchers has improved our predictive capabilities with respect to yellow perch recruitment. We have a better understanding of how recruitment is related to zooplankton abundance and temperature; knowledge concerning these relationships will improve Lake Michigan yellow perch management.

The multi-agency effort has made substantial progress in addressing yellow perch recruitment, and serves as a model for agencies to work collaboratively to address important management questions with a sound research strategy. In our judgment, keys to the long-term success of this group include a dynamic and collaborative interaction among researchers and managers; the recognition that a problem exists that no single agency or group can effectively address; willingness to share data and observations among group members, especially outside of formal meetings; and embracing expertise from outside the core group of participants to address key research needs. This model can result in substantive progress in addressing difficult management decisions regarding exploited fish stocks, regardless of the system.

Project Contact: David F. Clapp, 231.547.2914
(ext. 237), clappd@michigan.gov

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