Monday, October 7, 2013

Conservation, or What I Want

One of my readers recently volunteered me to stand up for wild steelhead.

This would seem to be a nice reader-friendly stance, but frankly I fail to identify with this cause. It's not that I don't think wild steelhead are disposable, it's just that it's so distant from me that it lacks resonance. Steelhead are an introduced invasive species here in the Great Lakes. Should I really be advocating for them?

If I lived in Maryland and flew to British Columbia or the Olympic Peninsula each year to pursue wild steelhead I guess I could be on board. But I don't live there or fish in those places. I live in Northern Michigan. We have lots of wild steelhead. And lots of problems. Non-native steelhead are not one of those problems. Here's what I would like to see done/restored.

1. Restore Coaster brook trout. They were the salmonid of our shores. Imagine travelling to Lake Superior to catch 40, 50, 80 or more 3-10 lb. brook trout in a single day. They were also present in northern lakes Michigan and Huron (and still are). This is our quintessential native trout (char), and it's high time we brought them back.

2. Restore the Lake Trout. After decades of Federal stocking after their decimation by lampreys and smelt their number have been restored- or have they? Turns out we were stocking federal mutts. Meanwhile a legacy stock of deepwater spawning native Lakers has been discovered in Elk Lake. I say a silent prayer each day that these fish get restored.

3. Figure out what to hell and gone is up with the perch. You used to be able to get a perch basket with fries in a local eatery for about $6.99. Now it will cost you 3 times that. Perch populations in the Great Lakes crashed 15 years ago give or take, and you have better odds of eating cod here than perch. Even though cod are highly endangered.

4. Get sturgeon off the Endangered Species list. Cripes. We have enough water already. Let's get back to the days when we can stack them on the beach and burn them.

5. Keep Asian Carp outta here. This is such a no-brainer it needs no further explanation. It won't be the Fish Apocalypse that everyone claims, just another headache we don't need here.

6. Restore all native Whitefish relatives- whitefish, ciscoes, lake herring, pin herring and menominee etc. They're our birthright.

7. Protect and promote musky and pike fisheries. They are a statewide resource that is all too often ignored.

8. Restore the Arctic Grayling. They were our calling cards. Until we wiped them out via logging. The land still weeps.

9. ERADICATE ALL SALMON, STEELHEAD, BROWN TROUT, SMELT, SEA LAMPREYS, CARP, ZEBRA MUSSELS, QUAGGA MUSSELS, CARP and other foreign invaders that have monopolized our beautiful home waters. I would love to see this watershed truly restored and not made into a sportsman's paradise. We've done a bang-up job so far. It's time we claimed our birthright.

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