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Trout survive summer in Bluff Valley Pond


Submitted Photo

BESSEMER STUDENTS help net fish at Bluff Valley Park in Bessemer last week as part of a study of the park's fish population. Among those helping were, from left, Uriah Aili, Tyler Bush, Natalie Sullivan, Jacie Jokela and Riley Doney help Mark Mylchreest, of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

BESSEMER - Bessemer High School students recently netted the pond at Bluff Valley Park to survey fish numbers as part of their hands-on outdoor curriculum.  According to A.D. Johnston teacher Dave Rowe, the netting is a cooperative learning opportunity made possible through the efforts of Michigan Department of Natural Resources fisheries technician Mark Mylchreest and Roger Greil, aquatic lab manager at Lake Superior State University.  

"The netting and possible development of the pond was the brainchild of Greil," Rowe said, "but without the help of Mylchreest and the MDNR, none of this would have ever been possible.

"When we started this project 18 months ago, we didn't even know that there were any fish in the pond and during this year's survey the students identified and counted 1,020 fish," Rowe said.

In July of 2015, 150 bluegills provided by the MDNR were stocked in the pond to determine if they could survive the summer and winter in the shallow, oxygen-deprived water. 

During the spring of 2016, a total of 23 brood stock brook trout, ranging from 16 to 20-plus inches, were donated and planted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to generate interest in fishing and to see if they could survive the summer in the pond.

Brook trout require much cooler water than bluegills, a warmwater species.

"When we netted the pond last week, we figured we would find many suckers and pumpkinseed sunfish, but what we didn't know was whether or not any of our planted fish would survive," Rowe said.

On Sunday, Oct. 9, nets were placed in the pond and then checked by students on both Monday and Tuesday.

"When students started checking the nets, things quickly got exciting when a student on the boat yelled, 'We got a trout,'" Rowe said.

The 16-inch brookie was one of four large brook trout between 16 and 17.5 inches caught over the two days. One bluegill from last year's planting and eight small brook trout, ranging from 3 to 8 inches, were caught, in addition to hundreds of suckers and many pumpkinseeds.

During the first day, students identified, counted and clipped fins on all suckers 5 inches or longer and on the second day, they counted how many suckers were new and how many were recaptured. 

The information will be used by students to develop a population estimate for the pond. 

On the second day, 10 large suckers and 10 pumpkinseeds were kept and will be analyzed by the MDNR for contaminates.

"Although I am not worried about the pond in Bluff Valley Park, all fish contain some contaminates and before we take the next step in developing a community fishing pond, we want to make sure that the fish will be safe to eat," Rowe said.

Mylchreest said, "We achieved everything we had hoped by finding the bluegills that wintered over and catching multiple large brook trout."

Greil said, "Brook trout are the canary in the coal mine. If they can survive this summer in this pond in this condition, then we definitely have something to work with and by catching several small brookies, we know that there is a reproducing population upstream."

Mylchreest added, "Much of what the MDNR does is under the radar and it is good to work with students and show them what types of things the MDNR does everyday."

"You would never think that so many fish would be found in the pond," sophomore Cade Mazzon said.

Sophomore Devon Byers said, "The experience was fun because it was like being in the shoes of a fisheries biologist, where we got to see and experience what they do on a daily basis."


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