Anglers asked to watch out for tagged fish
ESCANABA — It’s the time of year to get outdoors and wet a line in a lake, pond, or river. What do you do if you catch a fish that has a tag attached to it? Where did it come from?
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) tag fish to learn more about a species of fish. Anglers are asked to report tagged fish to help with that mission.
“We tag fish to get information on their behaviors and habitats,” said Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fishery Biologist John Bauman. “In a collaboration with Wisconsin, we tag walleye to study their travel and migration patterns, and to locate the depths they travel in Lake Michigan.”
There are a few different ways fish are tagged. The type of tag depends on the amount of funding available, what type of information is being gathered and how many fish are part of the project.
A fish that has a clipped adipose fin, a soft fleshy fin found on the back behind the dorsal fin, has a good chance of having a coded wire tag in the snout. The tag helps to determine how many stocked fish were caught compared to natural origin fish. Anglers are asked to provide the DNR with information about the catch, along with the snout of the fish. To cut the snout off the fish, cut the fish from top to bottom just behind the eyes. Freeze the form with the snout in a bag until it is dropped off at one of the area head drop sites. A hard copy of the DNR form can be picked up in their office or the report can be called in to the office.
There are three drop sites in Delta County, Bayshore Resort Bait and Tackle at 1323 N. Lakeshore Dr., Gladstone, 906-428-9687; DNR Escanaba Operations Service Center at 6833 US2, Escanaba, 906-786-2351; and Fairport Marina off M-183. The bag can be dropped in the freezer by the cleaning station.
In Schoolcraft County, the bag can be dropped off in the freezer located by the fish cleaning area at the boat launch in Manistique.
In 2017, over 40 tags were returned to Manistique. Bauman said several dozen are dropped off at the DNR Escanaba office.
“The DNR come in here to get the local fishing report so it’s easy for them to pick up any heads that have been dropped off,” said Creten, owner of Bayshore Resort Bait and Tackle, which will accept heads and forms dropped off during regular business hours.
Other tags are more expensive and gather more data. The telemetry tags are either radio and sonic transmitters. The tags track fish locations and habitats and are costly but can be reused. Information on how to return telemetry tags is located on the tag itself. The tag will only be found when the fish is cleaned.
The Michigan DNR’s collaboration with Wisconsin for tracking walleye has already resulted in findings.
“We have found a significant change in the walleye’s movement especially in the summer,” said Michigan DNR Fisheries Research Biologist Troy Zorn. “There are more bites south of Escanaba, and not as many north for some reason.”
An acoustic tag in a walleye will ping receivers, which are placed two to three miles apart to track fish. According to Zorn there are “curtains” of receivers separating Big Bay de Noc and Little Bay de Noc, the Door Peninsula of Wis. and Stonington Peninsula. Approximately once a year receivers are recovered and data is read.
“There are receivers by Chambers Island, at the mouth of major tributaries, at the mouth of spawning rivers, all working to gather data,” said Zorn.
The DNR rely heavily on anglers to return tags and report information to measure growth, movement and longevity.
“A lot of fish are tagged in the jaw from the fishery. There is a little more uncertainty with that type of tag,” said Zorn. “Until a fisherman reports we don’t know the outcome … there was one fish out there for 13 to 14 years.”
Grants provide funding to purchase tags and receivers. Some components are on loan from the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System (GLATOS), which uses acoustic telemetry to understand fish behavior in relation to Great Lakes ecology and provide information useful to fish managers. Currently GLATOS has four projects working in the Bays de Noc area studying Green Bay-Fox River muskellunge, Green Bay lake whitefish, movement and fidelity of Green Bay Lake Sturgeon, and Green Bay walleye.
“Fish from Manistique return back to Manistique more than other fish returning to their place of origin,” said Bauman.
There is a $100 reward to return acoustic tags, which should not be frozen. Fish are marked with a blaze orange plastic tag.
Anglers are asked to report fish with anchor tags. Anchor tags can be plastic or metal both marked with a reference to Michigan DNR. It can be located on the lip, gill or dorsal area. If you catch a fish tagged with an anchor tag and do not want to keep the fish remove the tag if it is plastic, do not if it is metal, and report the catch.