Anglers target bowfishing for carp decrease

By MAX JOHNSTON

Capital News Service

LANSING — Many people consider carp to be a “trash fish,” but fly fishing for carp is popular in northern Michigan. This year though, guides have cancelled trips and lost thousands of dollars because they can’t find the fish.

Some blame another growing sport: bowfishing.

When carp spawn in Grand Traverse Bay, their backs actually protrude from the water like a shark because there are so many packed in shallow waters.

But 15 years ago, no one seriously fished for carp in Michigan.

Carp are a popular game fish in Europe, so local angler Dave McCool gave it a shot and noticed how much fun it was. McCool says carp are smart and they put up a fight, so eventually it caught on.

“Once I got a trout fisherman, who always turned his nose up at carp, to hook a carp, and then take off and take out 150 yards of line, that started to change the perception,” McCool says.

McCool normally leads about 20 carp fishing trips a year for $400 each.

But this year something changed. McCool says the fish were nearly impossible to find and he cancelled almost half of his trips.

“This is probably the most difficult year that I’ve had in the 15 years doing it,” McCool says.

McCool says he doesn’t know why the carp are gone, but another guide on Grand Traverse Bay, Brian Pitser, has an idea: bowfishing.

“When I find fish with holes in them, or just dumped, and broken arrows, it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out why fish didn’t ever come back in there,” Pitser said.

Local bow angler Sam James took me out bowfishing for this story.

“What you’re on right now is a custom built elevated platform, on a 17-foot boat, with a couple thousand watts of lights that are being powered by a generator,” James says.

James leads bowfishing trips for Thundering Aspens, a hunting and fishing club in Mesick.

It’s about 10 p.m. and we’re on East Grand Traverse Bay. A lot of bowfishing is done at night, when water is calmer and fish are easier to spot. When we get to shallow waters, his partner cuts the engine and turns on the LED lights placed around the boat. They shoot out a bright white light that illuminates everything in a 10-foot radius.

James stands on the platform with his bow at the ready. He points out some smaller fish, then sees a carp. He nocks his bow, fires and reels in the wire attached to his arrow.

The carp he pulls in is about 2 feet long, with goldish brown scales, and weighs 6 or 7 pounds. Sam aimed well, and he got the fish in the head.

The whole ordeal is over in about 20 seconds. The folks at Thundering Aspens will use that fish for fertilizer on their property.

Overall, it’s a quiet night and he pulls in only three fish. He says it was busier a couple of weeks ago.

“During the spawn, our average was about 80 a night,” James says.

He knows bow anglers have been accused of killing off all the carp. He says he saw plenty of fish this year, but holds back from shooting because of anglers in the area.

“We might see schools of carp and think ‘Oh, that’d be great’ but that’s where that guy fly fishes,” James says. “We’re just respectful about it.”

Getting rid of carp

The Department of Natural Resources says there’s no direct link between bowfishing and low numbers of carp in Grand Traverse Bay. Scott Heintzleman – a fisheries biologist for the DNR – says a lot of environmental factors like rising water levels could make the carp go to new areas.

But the DNR wants to see fewer carp. Heintzelman says they are an invasive fish that cause problems in the bay.

“They get sediment moving around and smother other fishes’ eggs, and then it hurts other native species to that lake,” Heintzelman says. “We generally encourage people to take as many as they can.”

Heintzelman says the DNR isn’t reconsidering that rule any time soon. So bow fisherman can keep filling their boats with dead carp, but that’s not making them any friends.

Bill Truscott has been bowfishing for 10 years. Truscott says he’s been harassed when he’s on the water, sometimes even with his kids on board.

“We’ll have people cast their lines into your boat, and start cussing, hollering, swearing, threatening us,” Truscott says. “It’s fairly common to have firework mortars shot at you.”

Fly anglers say they’re waiting to see if carp come back next year. If not, they’re going to the DNR to push for a change to the rules on carp, and bowfishing.

Max Johnston produced this story under a partnership between Interlochen Public Radio and Great Lakes Echo.

 

 

New folk album explores environmental issues

By KATE HABREL

Capital News Service

LANSING — Stephen Jones didn’t initially set out to put together an album of songs about modern life in Midwestern America.

But that is exactly what he did.

Jones is a retired journalist and current history professor at Central Michigan University. He’s also been a songwriter since high school.

His most recent record, “The Road We Build,” features songs that capture moments of his experience living in the Midwest. They also discuss contemporary social events.

The title comes from the first song on the album.

“That song kind of captured an idea that I was interested in,” Jones said. “To one extent or another, nearly all these songs embodied this idea of, ‘the world is what we make it.’”

Jones sings and plays acoustic guitar throughout the album. He is joined by his friend George Brown on guitar, upright bass and synthesizer. Dan Hazlett, who recorded and mixed the record, also provides instrumental backing.

The result is folk music that captures moods both energetic and contemplative.

Jones’s previous records were made up of strike songs, some of them parodies of existing music. In 1999, he wrote a song called “Marquette Range,” inspired by a conversation he had with a miner in the Upper Peninsula.

“That song is not his precise words, but it’s my recollection of the essence of our conversation,” Jones said. “It was sort of a quantum leap over the other songs that I’d written before. That was the first what I would call ‘real’ song that I wrote.”

“Marquette Range” became a songwriting springboard. It was picked up by folk singer Lee Murdock and featured in his album “Standing at the Wheel.” It was also the first time Jones said he felt he captured a moment of his experience in the world.

The rest of “The Road We Build” came in bits and pieces. As the years went by, Jones kept composing as the world around him kept changing.

Every song tells a unique story. “Marquette Range” expresses a miner’s struggle to support his family as the mining industry changes. From the song:

“A few more years, I’ve heard them say, they’ll shut it down and move away,

Kicking us aside like dogs with mange

Played-out hearts upon this Marquette Range.”

Many of the other tracks also discuss current events through a personal perspective. “Standing with Standing Rock” came from Jones’s experience going to the protests about the Dakota Access Pipeline at North Dakota’s Standing Rock Indian Reservation in November 2016.

His time there gave him an appreciation for the effort to peacefully protect both the water and the rights of the indigenous people, Jones said. The song developed out of what he saw and heard there.

In a similar vein, “The Albatross” looks at the Flint water crisis through a unique lens.

The song is an homage to poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” In it, Coleridge tells the story of an old sailor who, after killing an albatross, watches his crewmates die. His only chance at redemption is to tell other people what he did — and warn them against repeating his mistakes.

“It struck me that ‘water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink’ was what Flint was about,” Jones said. “This tremendous injustice that had been done to the people of Flint, especially the children, who are more susceptible than anybody to the impact of lead contamination.”

The track “The Andersons Don’t Live Here Any More” describes how many families lost their homes when the housing bubble burst in 2008.

Jones saw houses vacated and payments rising in his own Detroit neighborhood. It’s only now starting to bounce back, he said.

Each song is inspired from a different event. Trying to single one out is, according to Jones, like asking a parent which of their children is their favorite.

But it’s what he calls the “moral dimension” that binds the record together.

“There really is only one lesson to learn in life: pay attention,” Jones said. “Everything else is just context. I’m trying to let the experience of the world bounce off me in a way where it can lead somebody to think about things in a different way, or see an angle they hadn’t considered.”

“The Road We Build” is available for digital download from Amazon and Spotify.

Kate Habrel writes for Great Lakes Echo.

Pisces porn: Could the sounds of spawning lure lake trout?

By CARIN TUNNEY

Capital News Service

LANSING — Lake trout make noise in bed, according to new research by Great Lakes scientists.

The species commonly growl, snap, quiver and thump while spawning, the study found.

The report may cause a smirk, but researchers say the findings are serious.

“Peeping on spawning lake trout with a camera and microphone could be the premise of an interesting comedy skit, but also makes for interesting science that could help improve how fish populations are monitored,” said Nick Johnson, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey at the Hammond Bay Biological Station in Millersburg.

Scientists could potentially use the audio sounds to lure fish to spawning areas, Johnson said.

“If you walk down the street and hear a party going you might want to check it out,” he said. “There are historical reefs in the Great Lakes that are no longer being used for spawning. We may be able to play back the sounds of reproduction to lure in the trout and try to get them interested in spawning there.”

Johnson led a team that included researchers from Michigan State University, the University of Windsor and the University of Vermont. They recorded spawning lake trout with cameras and hydrophones, which are underwater microphones that detect the sounds of boats, waves and even the quietest fish.

Researchers also used scuba gear to observe the fish more directly.

“We basically peep on those lake trout,” Johnson said.

They tracked noises on spawning reefs and non-spawning areas in northern Lake Huron near Drummond Island and in Lake Champlain in Vermont.

The eavesdroppers heard snaps, growls and grunts in both locations along the spawning beds. Most sounds were made at night.

“It’s kind of cool to think about what is going on underwater as far as sound,” Johnson said. “We often look into the water and see things going on, so it is a new veil to lift when you put a hydrophone under the water … you can learn a lot about fish by listening and learning.”

Snaps were common before spawning, Johnson said. They may signal potential mates or tell other males to get away.

“It’s like a snap you would hear with your fingers and your teeth, and when we heard it in Drummond Island we believed it was related to fish being aggressive to each other or biting each other,” Johnson said.

He said growls occurred during spawning and are likely produced by the vibration of muscles during the act.

There were no visual indications of what created the thump sound, he said. But researchers think it could come from the gas bladder that helps a fish control its depth.

Although researchers already knew fish make noise, the exciting part of the new study is using video and audio recordings, which hadn’t been done before with lake trout, Johnson said.

“The sounds fish produce in the Great Lakes have been generally overlooked or understudied to this point,” he said. “I think the underwater soundscape of the Great Lakes will likely be researched more in the future.”

Hydrophones can be left on reefs throughout the winter, making them more versatile than gillnets used to study lake trout, Johnson said. They could eventually help pinpoint lake trout spawning locations on deep, offshore reefs that are difficult to access.

Johnson said understanding sounds associated with reproduction is vital.

“It’s something that is hard to talk to your family about sometimes, what my job is,” Johnson said. “But we have an interest in lake trout restoration in the Great Lakes and one of the challenges is how lake trout locate other fish to reproduce.”

The research was supported by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which oversees binational efforts to address Great Lakes’ ecological concerns and threats.

Lake trout research remains a major emphasis, said Marc Gaden, the commission’s communications director. They haven’t recovered from drastic declines in the mid-1900s when sea lamprey invaded the lakes. The species also suffered from commercial overfishing.

Lake trout have rebounded in Lake Superior and Lake Huron, but maintaining populations is a challenge in Lake Michigan and Lake Ontario, he said.

The population in Lake Erie remains steady, but there’s concern because many lake trout don’t reach reproductive age, which is about 7 years old.

Current threats include invasive zebra mussels that cause habitat loss and alewives that “gobble up lake trout eggs like popcorn,” Gaden said.  Scientists also believe trout become vitamin B1- deficient from eating alewives, which shortens their lifespan.

Monitoring reproductive sounds could lead to better ways to restore lake trout, Gaden said. “The point is that understanding life history and habits and behavior is really a key to making good, creative, innovative decisions about management and restoration. And the fishery commission supports that kind of research.”

The study appears in the “Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.”

Carin Tunney writes for Great Lakes Echo.

 

New album combines Great Lakes music, Michigan history

By KATE HABREL

Capital News Service

LANSING — What do you get when you combine Great Lakes history, folk music and Michigan musicians? In this case, Brandon and Bethany Foote’s upcoming vinyl album.

Yes, vinyl.

“A lot of people are listening to music online, so I thought one way to get a physical product in people’s hands that they might get excited about is through vinyl,” Brandon Foote said. “I think that analog experience is still important. And I think there’s a big human element that’s missing when we start only using these digital devices for this stuff.”

The husband and wife duo are two halves of Gifts or Creatures, a band that since 2010 has produced three albums blending folk music with folklore. Their songs cover everything from how the Great Lakes’ landscape has changed to how people of different backgrounds form relationships with the area. Continue reading

Connecting blighted Great Lakes cities to boost economy

By ABIRGAIL HEATH

Capital News Service

LANSING — The Great Lakes connect many blighted cities in a network that could supply recycled building materials.

That’s just one way that domicology could spur the region’s economic development, according to a recent report by the Michigan State University Center for Community and Economic Development and the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission.

Domicology is a new term coined by experts looking to repurpose materials from old buildings to avoid large-scale waste and high landfill costs.

Great Lakes cities suffering significant abandonment include Detroit, Milwaukee, Toledo, Cleveland and Buffalo. They can provide salvage shipped across the Great Lakes to a reprocessing center, said George Berghorn, an MSU assistant professor of construction management. Continue reading

Muskegon new ‘Deconstruction Hub’ of the Great Lakes? 

By LUCY SCHROEDER

Capital News Service

LANSING — Muskegon once was called the “Lumber Queen of the World.”  It’s been called “the Port City” and the “Riviera of the Midwest.”

Now, city officials hope to add “Deconstruction Hub of the Great Lakes” to the city’s titles.

In the mid-1880s — the peak of the lumbering era — Muskegon was a bustling hub for processing logs into timber shipped across the Great Lakes region.  Chicago was rebuilt after the devastating fire of 1871 with timber from Muskegon.

Advocates of the city’s port would like to see some of that timber come back. That could happen if Muskegon becomes a hub for deconstructing some of those same cities it helped build.

Deconstruction is taking apart abandoned buildings and salvaging usable parts—as opposed to simply demolishing them. It is part of the larger study of domicology, which looks at the political, technological, sociological and economical aspects of structural abandonment. Continue reading

UP scientists writes guide to fruit flies

By CARIN TUNNEY

Capital News Service

LANSING — A common ancestor of fruit flies and humans emerged about 600 million years ago, long before the formation of the earth’s continents as we know them today.

Scientists discovered the link in the early 1900s, opening the floodgates to genetic research.

Fruit flies are cheap, grow rapidly and are easy to mutate. Their genetic likeness to humans allows researchers to study diseases like cancer, diabetes and immune resistance.

That makes them a model species for genetic research, said Thomas Werner, a professor of genetics and developmental biology at Michigan Technological University.

Werner recently co-authored a book “Drosophilids of the Midwest and Northeast,” which gives fruit flies overdue accolades. Continue reading

Seeking ‘Eureka!’ cries to solve environmental problems

By TALITHA TUKURA PAM

Capital News Service

LANSING — The state’s $1 million incentive for anyone who comes up with a new and innovative solution to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes.is part of a trend in using cash incentives to crowdsource and solve natural resource problems.

For instance, Michigan State University recently sponsored a challenge to redesign water foundations. The winning team won $15,000.

“The students are innovative and energetic and we were very excited to support student team learning and effort through problem solving,” said Professor Joan Rose, an MSU expert in water quality and public health safety.

Another example: The Michigan Design Council has sponsored contests for K-12 students to develop products to better enjoy the state’s water and winter. Continue reading

Detroit architect honored in new book

By STEVEN MAIER

Capital News Service

LANSING — Admirers of architect Wirt Rowland finally have the biography they were looking for. It was a long time coming.

Rowland was arguably the premier skyscraper architect of the early 20th century. He designed prominent buildings around the country for years. Yet his name is hardly known outside of architectural circles, and no one had bothered to write a book about the man.

That’s what struck Michael G. Smith of Bloomfield Hills and led him to write the just-released, “Designing Detroit: Wirt Rowland and the Rise of Modern American Architecture” (Wayne State University Press, $44.99).

The tome is comprehensive and meticulously detailed as Smith explores the rise of Rowland through the ranks of the architectural world and his work in Detroit. Despite his lack of training, Rowland earned a position in the city as an apprentice draftsman in 1901. Four years later, he was the lead designer for the two largest construction projects in Michigan. He went on to work for some of the most prominent architectural firms in the city, designing five of Detroit’s 16 prominent skyscrapers Continue reading

Two species – one to preserve, one to control – challenge dam removal

By IAN WENDROW

Capital News Service

LANSING — A proposed dam removal along the Grand River faces significant delays due to its potential to disrupt river ecosystems. The environmental risks involve the fate of two species: sea lamprey and snuffbox mussels.

One needs to be kept out while the other needs to be protected.

The Sixth Street Dam in downtown Grand Rapids was installed in the mid-1800s to help ship milled logs downstream by controlling the water’s height and flow. It drowned the river’s naturally occurring rapids, allowing logs to float over them.

Eventually log transportation no longer relied on the river, but the dam remained.

Years of inadequate maintenance began to pose a hazard to kayakers and swimmers. In 2013, firefighters rescued two kayakers after the bumped against the dam and capsized. This and other accidents motivated city and state agencies to get the removal process going in earnest. Continue reading