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LSSU sets fish trap in St. Mary's rapids

Posted: June 11th, 2009

CONTACT: John Shibley, e-mail, 906-635-2314; Tom Pink, e-mail, 635-2314; Aquatic Research Lab Manager Roger Greil, e-mail, 635-1949.



NEW TOOL FOR RAPIDS SURVEY -LSSU Aquatic Research Lab Manager Roger Greil and student Andrew Hageman of Plainwell, Mich., check a "screw trap" that they set in the St. Mary's River rapids recently. The trap will be used to monitor the rapids for young Atlantic salmon and other fish through the summer and into the fall. (LSSU/John Shibley)

A print-resolution photo that runs with the caption above can be found by clicking here.

More photos follow the story

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. -- It's not exactly space-age technology, but a fish trap placed in the St. Mary's River rapids this week by the Lake Superior State University Aquatic Research Laboratory certainly looks like something from outer space.

LSSU staff and students, assisted by workers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, placed a "screw trap" at the base of the rapids with the hope of capturing salmon and other fish that have hatched recently in the rapids to better understand what species are using the habitat. At first glance, boaters and anglers might be led to believe that a NASA Apollo space capsule has splashed down in the St. Mary's River. The trap, which is cone-shaped, resembles the nose of a rocket.

In the past, LSSU staff and students have used backpack electro-shockers and fyke (trap) nets in surveys to capture young fish and salmon – smolt – in the rapids. The screw trap will greatly expand this effort, as it will be in use through the summer and into October. LSSU is borrowing the trap from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

"When we used the backpack electro-shockers, we could get smaller fish in the shallow water tight to the shore, but we couldn't get into deep enough water to look for yearling fish," said Roger Greil, manger of the LSSU lab. "Then a couple years ago we used fyke (trap) nets but our efforts weren't successful because fyke nets are not made for currents. Screw traps are made for use in currents."

The trap gets its name from its form and function. Water from the river flows into the trap's eight-foot opening and through an auger-like interior that directs fish into a live well in the rear. The trap spins in the current, allowing two tapered "flights," which are wrapped around a shaft, to capture water and fish. The trap and live well float on two 20-foot pontoons.

A rotating drum behind the live well separates organic debris, which is washed away in the current.

In the first few days of using the trap, lab staff have seen a variety of fish, including young salmon, smelt, minnows and, so far, one young sea lamprey. USFWS crews will help check the trap daily into July while they are checking other traps for sea lampreys that they have set in various spots on the US and Canadian sides of the river.

Greil said the lab's goal is not only to see if Atlantic salmon are reproducing naturally, but also to find out what other types of fish are using the rapids for spawning.

"We want boaters and fishermen to be aware of the trap when they are in the area," he said. "We have it anchored along the west shore of the rapids and it's marked by caution tape and two blinking lights at night."

The LSSU Aquatic Research Laboratory has been stocking Atlantic salmon in the St. Mary's River since 1987. While the project has produced an excellent fishery in the river and Lake Huron, evidence has been elusive as to whether the salmon are reproducing in the river as chinook and pink salmon, steelhead and other species are. The lab stocked more than 27,000 Atlantic salmon in the river on June 9.

For more information about the LSSU Aquatic Research Lab, including its popular "fishcam," visit the LSSU ARL web page. –LSSU-


SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED –Lake Superior State University's Aquatic Research Laboratory staff put together a 15-foot fish trap in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., on June 10, prior to it being installed at the mouth of the St. Mary's River rapids. The entire assembly will spin in the current to separate debris from fish that are directed into a live well. Lab staff will monitor the trap weekly through October in hopes of finding out what fish species reproduce in the rapids. The lab has been stocking Atlantic salmon in the St. Mary's annually since 1987; more than 25,000 Atlantic fry were released the night of June 9. The trap is on loan from Michigan's Department of Natural Resources. Shown left to right are LSSU students Andrew Hageman (Plainwell, Mich.), Dan Operhall (Westland. Mich.) and Robert Morgan (Fairview, Mich.), and ARL manager Roger Greil. (LSSU/John Shibley)

A print-resolution photo that runs with the caption above can be found by clicking here.





LOADED FOR SALMON – U.S. Fish & Wildlife technicians tow a 15-foot fish trap just off shore from Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., on June 10, prior to it being installed at the mouth of the St. Mary's River rapids. The entire assembly will spin in the current to separate debris from fish that are directed into a live well. Lake Superior State University Aquatic Research Laboratory staff, shown following behind, will monitor the trap weekly through October in hopes of finding out what fish species reproduce in the rapids. The lab has been stocking Atlantic salmon in the St. Mary's annually since 1987; more than 25,000 Atlantic fry were released the night of June 9. The trap is on loan from Michigan's Department of Natural Resources. (LSSU/John Shibley)

A print-resolution photo that runs with this caption can be found by clicking here.


-LSSU-


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