Michigan DNR staff traveled to Alaska to bring Arctic grayling home

A handful of Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Division staff traveled to Fairbanks, Alaska from May 1-9 to participate in and document the Alaska Department of Fish & Game’s annual Arctic grayling egg-take and spawning effort.

Michigan staff saw first-hand how the egg-take process works, which will come in handy as the state’s broodstock population becomes developed. A key skill shared was learning to sort green fish from ripe fish and noticing the differences between males and females.

Of all the eggs collected during the May trip, approximately 10,000 made their way back to Michigan courtesy of Michigan State University Ph.D. student Nicole Watson. Nicole will use the eggs and juvenile fish to continue her Arctic grayling early life history imprinting, predation and competition study. A portion of her research fish will be sent to Oden State Fish Hatchery in Alanson in late summer 2019 to be held in isolation for a period before they travel to Marquette State Fish Hatchery, where the state’s broodstock population will reside.

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The Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, announced a proposed initiative in June 2016 that aims to bring back an extirpated species to the state – Arctic grayling.  The Michigan Arctic Grayling Initiative seeks to establish self-sustaining populations of this species throughout its historical range in Michigan. The initiative has more than 50 partners collaborating on the reintroduction.

The next steps include identifying interest and abilities of partners, collecting baseline data, initiating the building of broodstock and stocking efforts. The Manistee River watershed, once known as a premier grayling river, will be the first location for reintroduction.

The DNR will work closely with partners as the proposed Michigan Arctic Grayling Initiative moves forward. The Little River Band, located in Manistee County, has been engaged in extensive research for potential grayling reintroduction for several years.

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