These Michigan rivers might get the long-lost Grayling
A long-lost fish could return to some Michigan rivers by 2023.
More than 45 Michigan organizations have kicked off a funding campaign to reintroduce the Arctic grayling, a fish in the salmon and trout family that has been absent from the state for about a century.
The reintroduction shows that once-devastated ecosystems are on the path to recovery, said Jim Dexter, director of the fisheries division for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Plus, it's a pretty cool fish.
"Their big sail-like dorsal fin they have is just awesome," added Ed Eisch, fish production program manager at the DNR. "They’re a beautiful fish." Parts of Jordan, Boardman and Maple rivers will receive habitat evaluations to see whether the fish could thrive there. Little Manistee may also join their ranks.
Eventually, eggs will be stocked in incubators in the chosen rivers, where the young grayling will hatch directly into their new home. If all goes well, a fresh batch of grayling could be swimming in Michigan in about five years.
"It speaks to the quality of the environment when native species are found in the environments that should be," Dexter said.
Logging and overfishing ruined the grayling's environment during the Industrial Revolution, leading to their extinction by the 1930s. The last known wild fish was caught in 1936 in the Otter River.
The reintroduction process means transporting eggs all the way from Alaska, one of two other states the grayling calls home. (Montana is the second). Eggs will be evaluated at the Oden State Fish Hatchery in Emmet County, Eisch said, where the broodstock will be developed and tested to make sure the new fish is free of pathogens that could harm Michigan waters.
Despite popular belief, brown and rainbow trout aren't even native to Michigan, Dexter said.
In recent years, though, the DNR has pushed to bring the fish back. Elk Rapids-based nonprofit ReWild Michigan is partnering with the agency to channel funds into the initiative, which has already hit the halfway point of its $1.1 million goal.
Notable donors include Consumers Energy Foundation and Rotary Charities of Traverse Cities, said a ReWild spokesperson. A ceremony in Traverse City honored donors on Monday.
Donations can be made online at rewildmichigan.org.
Arctic grayling Fiona Kelliher, Detroit Free Press Published 7:55 p.m. ET Oct. 29, 2018