Two Lake Superior State University professors Dr. Derek Crane and Dr. Kevin Kapuscinski, are linking habitat changes to declining populations of two popular sports fish: Muskies and Northern Pike. They set out to research genetic diversity, changes in habitat, and potential factors linking the changes in habitat to changes in climate and human intervention.
“Some areas in the Great Lakes are seeing exceptionally good populations of Musky/Northern Pike,” said Dr. Crane, who is a research associate and biologist at Lake Superior State University. He said areas especially near the Detroit river and Lake St. Clair are seeing strong numbers in the fish. However, areas such as the watersheds of Lake Erie that have seen strong numbers before have sharply declining populations. This is where Dr. Crane’s and Dr. Kapuscinski’s work comes in. To set out in finding why certain areas are experiencing habitat changes, and how to conserve and manage populations of the two sports fish.
Crane said the main key points of their research was to:
-Identify spawning habitats and find ways to restore these habitats
-Develop ways to restore populations that have been significantly reduced
-Study genetic diversity
-research the fish mortality rates and how to reduce selective mortality
-Conserve and manage the two species of fish
Through their research, Crane said they found areas where property owners where removing debris and wood from streams and river beds where reproduction of the fish is vital. He said by removing woody debris from the water, it prevents eggs from settling properly and can result in lower spawning numbers.
By examining the two species, and their spawning habitats, the conclusion was made that over-fishing did play a role in declining populations in certain areas, but so too did habitat destruction. Specifically, wetland drainage, hydroelectric damming, and the removal of woody debris in the water.
Kapuscinski and Crane’s research was recently published in the national science journal, American Fisheries Magazine. You can see the magazine’s website by clicking on the link. fisheries.org/fisheries-magazine