Redefining the Classroom

ARL Fishcam FAQ

Why do we have a "Fishcam" and what is it for?

•  Educational
•  Exposure to the university
•  Keep an eye on our returning fish
•  Use to help with egg take
•  What's out there
•  Service to the public

Where is the Lake Superior State University Aquatic Research Laboratory Fishcam Located?

The ARL Fish Cam is located in Sault Ste. Marie, MI, in the St. Marys River. The camera is positioned on the output side of the Edison Sault Electric power generation building, on the east side of the hydro plant, immediately downstream from Lake State’s ARL hatchery.

How deep is the Fish Cam?

We vary the depth of the camera by season. In the early spring, when steelhead are present, we place the camera at approximately 8 ft (2.4 m), sometimes pointed at an angle towards the bottom of the river. During the summer and fall, we raise the camera to 5 ft (1.5 m), and point it directly out.

Can I Fish at This Location?

The area near the ARL Fish Cam is open to anglers with a valid Michigan fishing license; however, fishing at the ARL Fish Cam is prohibited. The restricted area is marked with orange fencing, and closed to all fishing. This closed off area is a protected area for our returning fish. In the fall of the year we will set nets in this area to collect our fish for egg take. The best way to fish is from a boat. You can also fish on the dock next to the power plant.

What species of fish can I see on the Fish Cam?

The most common and most abundant fish seen on the Fish Cam are Atlantic salmon and pink salmon. We also see chinook and coho salmon, steelhead, suckers, whitefish, and sea lamprey. Occasionally, we see diving birds, like cormorants or mergansers. COMING SOON – FishCam identification guide.

What time of year are different fish visible on the Fish Cam?

While some species are present in the St. Marys River for long periods of the year, they are usually seen for a more limited time on the Fish Cam. Below is a chart showing when you can expect to see different species of fish.

How old are the Atlantic salmon?

Before the staff at the ARL stock Atlantic salmon into the St. Marys River, they mark each year class of fish by clipping a different fin. If you catch or view a fish on the Fish Cam you can tell the age of the fish based on which fin is clipped (see below). Release Year Fin clip Age
  • 2013
    • Left Pectoral
    • 1+
  • 2012
    • Right Ventral
    • 2+
  • 2011
    • Right Pectoral
    • 3+
  • 2010
    • Left Ventral
    • 4+
All fish are released in the spring of the year when they are 1-1/2 years old. Because the fish are clipped and released as yearlings, add 1 year to the year release above (so if a fish was caught with a left ventral clip, the fish likely is a four year old). See the diagram below to distinguish pectoral from ventral fins. To determine right or left, look at the fish head on; the fish’s left is on your right, and the fish’s right is on your left. In the diagram below, you are looking at the left side of the fish.

Picture source: Kraft, C.E., D.M. Carlson, and M. Carlson. 2006. Inland Fishes of New York (Online), Version 4.0. Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

What are the eel-like fish that are attached to some of the salmon?

These are sea lamprey, a non-native parasite on large fish of the Great Lakes. Sea lamprey are jawless fishes that use their sucker like mouth to attach to the side of their host and using rasping teeth to expose tissue. They then feed off of tissue and fluids from their host. In some cases, sea lamprey can kill their host. If you watch closely on the Fish Cam, you will probably see many fish that bear sea lamprey scars.

Are you concerned about the sea lamprey?

Yes, the Great Lakes community as a whole is very concerned about sea lamprey. Many agencies and organizations are battling sea lamprey populations through the use of lampricides, barriers, trap-removals, and a sea lamprey sterilization program. The ARL assists in these endeavors by helping operate sea lamprey traps and our Fish Cam provides scientists with one way to assess sea lamprey abundance. We also keep detailed records of sea lamprey scarring on the Atlantic salmon we collect for the hatchery.

How big are the fish?

Returning Atlantic salmon average around 24-28 in (66-72 cm) and 8 lbs (3.6 kg). Chinook salmon average around 28-31 in (72-78 cm). Pink salmon average 2-3 lbs (1-1.5 kg).

Why are there so many fish around the Fish Cam?

When the time comes to spawn, salmon are attracted to their birthplace. The Atlantic salmon we release from the ARL congregate near the outflow of the hatchery in the summer and fall. For other species, many of them move upriver near the shore of the river and, thus, pass close to the Fish Cam. The current passing through the power plant attracts the fish and many will hold their position in the current before continuing their journey.

Where do Atlantic salmon go when they are not on the Fish Cam?

Our salmon migrate throughout the Great Lakes. Most of the Atlantics spend their time in northern Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. However, our salmon have been captured as far away as Duluth, MN, Chicago, IL, and Lake Ontario. In fact, our Atlantic salmon have been found in each of the five Great Lakes!