Research studies the re-introduction of Arctic Grayling in Michigan

Research studies the re-introduction of Arctic Grayling in Michigan

Friday, July 6, 2018

Nicole Watson netting fry to place in raceway.

Today Ron Barch and I were invited to a research facility at Michigan State University to observe the first in a line of studies toward the further goal of the re-introduction of Arctic Grayling in Michigan. We were welcomed by PHD student Nicole Watson, who through private funding provided by the Henry E. & Consuelo S. Wenger Foundation, is working to clarify key uncertainties of an Arctic Grayling re-introduction.

Nicole returned on June 5 from a trip to Fairbanks, Alaska, bringing home 5,000 fertilized eggs provided by Alaska Fish & Game. These eggs were taken from Arctic Grayling from the Chena River near Fairbanks. The eggs hatched on June 8 and are now 28 days old.

Raceway to observe predator behavior.

Part of the research is setting up small raceways, representing a miniature version of a trout stream, to see how the Grayling stand up against Brown and Brook Trout. We observed the placing of a number of Grayling fry in a raceway with a larger Brook Trout to see if the Brook Trout would indeed eat the small fry. Yes that did happen, but amazingly these small Grayling, just days old, showed the instinct to hide in the stones from the predator Brook Trout. As of today 2,588 Grayling fry remain as Nicole continues her studies. This is one part of a three part study to determine:

  • Predation – age one Brown/Brook Trout & Grayling fry
  • Competition – age 0 Brown/Brook Trout & age 0 Grayling
  • Imprinting – thyroid hormone levels
Grayling fry

This research is to see how the Grayling may do when introduced into an environment with other predator fish. Nicole mentioned that when the time comes to actually place Grayling into a Michigan stream, they will be placed there as fry primarily so imprinting can naturally take place. We look forward to hearing additional results from Nicole’s research as we anticipate the day when Arctic Grayling once again are part of our Michigan fishery.

Lawrence Risbridger

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