The calendar has flipped to 2022. Our staff members are ready to tackle new projects in the coming 12 months, which also happens to mark Sea Grant’s 50th anniversary. Before they move more deeply into the new year, however, several staff members took a moment to retain the glow of their favorite 2021 project. Here’s what Fisheries Outreach Specialist Titus Seilheimer had to say:

White sucker monitoring in Silver Creek in Manitowoc County was right up there, if not the high point of my work year. Here are some images that illustrate my enthusiasm.

Fish spawning in progress.jpg – Here’s a group of white suckers spawning. Rocky riffles are great habitat for sucker eggs and also for watching suckers. (Image credit: Titus Seilheimer, Wisconsin Sea Grant)

Here, I’m on the lookout for suckers. This location is shallow, so counting the fish is fairly easy while wearing polarized sunglasses. More than 50 suckers may be actively spawning in that single riffle. (Image credit: Titus Seilheimer, Wisconsin Sea Grant)

Here’s a graph showing the measured water temperature at the monitoring site through the 2021 spawning season. When the water reaches 10 degrees, that is a spawning cue, but when the water cools down, so does the spawning. (Image credit: Titus Seilheimer, Wisconsin Sea Grant)

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Blog | Wisconsin Sea Grant

Blog | Wisconsin Sea Grant

Wisconsin Sea Grant

By Eva Ryan, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The next blog entry for the Wisconsin Sea Grant’s 50th anniversary celebration focuses on Titus Seilheimer, fisheries specialist. Seilheimer and I chatted about the ways in which his specialty has changed over the years and how he hopes to see it progress.

Titus Seilheimer holds an example of his work. Image credit: Wisconsin Sea Grant

Though Seilheimer is based in Manitowoc, his work extends from Lake Superior to Lake Michigan, covering about 1,000 miles of coastline. “I look at fisheries in terms of the whole Great Lakes ecosystem,” Seilheimer said. His position requires interacting with many different people and understanding the changing ecology of the lakes. These practices are necessary because his work sometimes covers much more than commercial and recreational fishing.

The field of fishing has certainly not been stagnant for the past 50 years. “Being in Wisconsin, we have two really interesting lakes and stories to look at,” said Seilheimer. “Of all the five Great Lakes, Lake Superior is by far the most natural in terms of food webs and water quality. In contrast, Lake Michigan 50 years ago is a totally different lake than the lake we have now.”

Fifty years ago, the Clean Water Act (1972) had yet to be passed, meaning there were far fewer policies in place to maintain healthy water quality and monitor pollution. There were large amounts of nutrient loading and unbalanced food webs. For example, midtwentieth century Lake Michigan contained no lake trout, few planktivores and high numbers of non-native alewives.

However, as time went by, improvements were made to the lakes. “We see the successful control of various invasive species, benefiting the fish in Lake Michigan,” said Seilheimer.

Today, we observe Lake Michigan with clear water due to the decline of nutrient loading as well as changes in zebra and quagga mussel populations that have “totally changed the ecology of the lake.”

Conversely, in Lake Superior we see more success in restoring native species and fewer issues surrounding invasive species (alewives, zebra and quagga mussels, etc.) compared to Lake Michigan. Because of this, the two lakes show contrast in how they have changed: a more natural food web (Lake Superior) versus a more altered food web (Lake Michigan).

“People have gotten a lot better at addressing invasive species pathways,” said Seilheimer. He noted that education about ways to prevent the spread of non-native species and policy changes are paying off.

Seilheimer continued to touch on all the good that has been achieved, like the management of nutrients and the cleanup of PCBs, but also stated there will always be something new to address, like the rise of PFAS/PFOS in our water sources. As we further invest in prevention, we are constantly gathering new scientific data to learn more about the changing lakes.

“I think where we’re at with all the Great Lakes is that it’s not necessarily about what we want out of the lakes, it’s what the lakes can support.”

Looking into the next 50 years, Seilheimer speculates that changing climate combined with invasive species and management are going to further change the lakes. In response to this prediction and in the spirit of looking forward to a brighter future, Seilheimer said, “One of the things we advocate for is science-based decision making and ecosystem-based management, and I believe that that’s going to be increasingly important to better manage our resources.”


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Blog | Wisconsin Sea Grant

Wisconsin Sea Grant

Birders on Wisconsin Point look for rare jaegers. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

The third weekend in September is traditionally a time for beach cleanups by communities in the Great Lakes. Volunteers scour beaches and shorelines for trash as part of the International Coastal Cleanup. Our Sea Grant staff members got in the spirit, participating in cleanups spanning across the state, from Wisconsin Point in Lake Superior, to Madison, to Manitowoc on Lake Michigan.

Marie Zhuikov and Russ Maron on Wisconsin Point. Image credit: Russ Maron

The event on Wisconsin Point featured a twist: birding. Besides being a good time to collect trash, this season offers a narrow window for Wisconsin birders to see parasitic jaegers, fast-flying pirates of the water bird world, as they migrate past Wisconsin Point from the arctic tundra to southern climes.

The “parasitic” part of their name comes from their food-stealing habits. They are categorized as “kleptoparasites,” which means they steal food from other seabirds.

The Friends of the Lake Superior Reserve (FOLSR) took advantage of the timing to invite Jaegerfest birders and FOLSR members to cleanup the beach when they weren’t on the lookout for birds.

Science communicator Marie Zhuikov and her husband have attended many beach cleanups in the past, but never one that combined jaeger-watching. On a calm and quiet Saturday morning, they joined the professional birders and their high-powered spotting scopes.

Dried bee balm flowers. Image credit: Yael Gen, Wisconsin Sea Grant

Zhuikov and her husband had better luck finding trash than birds. Alas, no jaegers were to be seen, although many ring-billed and herring gulls floated serenely in the lake. The duo moved to the end of the point and collected two bags of trash from the beach. The most interesting finds? A single Birkenstock sandal and fireworks debris.

Their efforts became even more impressive with the addition of four other bags of garbage plus a car bumper that others had collected and left bagged near the parking lot. All total, their haul weighed 160 pounds!

Their colleagues editor Elizabeth White, educator Ginny Carlton and graphic designer Yael Gen participated in a more botanical cleanup at the Lakeshore Nature Preserve on the Madison campus. They began by collecting seeds from dried bee balm plants. Gen said they pulled the seed heads off and saved them in paper bags. “If you turn one upside down and shake it, the seeds resemble ground pepper,” she said. The seeds will be used for a class and to reseed other areas of the preserve.

Titus Seilheimer and his sons with one of their beach cleanup finds in Manitowoc. Image credit: Amy Seilheimer

Next, they got a workout clearing an invasive buckthorn thicket along the shores of Lake Mendota using loppers and saws.

Fisheries specialist Titus Seilheimer and his family worked on Silver Creek Beach in Manitowoc. “We typically organize two cleanups per year, spring and fall,” Seilheimer said. “We had two other volunteers for our cleanup for a total of six. We removed 68 pounds of trash. That included two tires for most of the weight. We found fairly typical trash with 40 cigarette butts, small pieces of foam and plastic, shotgun shells and wads, bottle caps and plastic bottles.”

Way to go, Sea Grant staff! You cleaned up 228 pounds of trash, plus gobs of unwanted plants and provided seeds for the future. A commendable effort for one morning in September.

The post Sea Grant staff collect commendable beach cleanup haul first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Blog | Wisconsin Sea Grant

Blog | Wisconsin Sea Grant

Marie Zhuikov

Three grants totaling more than $334,000 were awarded to Wisconsin Sea Grant to support the state’s commercial fishing and aquaculture industries, particularly in the areas of career development and resilience planning.

Sharon Moen, Eat Wisconsin Fish outreach specialist. (Photo: Marie Zhuikov)

Recently, NOAA Sea Grant announced federal funding to aid the sustainable growth of the U.S. seafood industry. One of the efforts focuses on the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on seafood resources. Wisconsin Sea Grant has been awarded $186,000 in funding through that competition, meant to increase the resilience of the seafood sector to respond to future disruptions. The project has a two-year time span and was one of 13 awarded nationally by NOAA Sea Grant. Sharon Moen, Wisconsin Sea Grant’s Eat Wisconsin Fish outreach specialist, is the project lead.

A second recently announced grant of $98,000 was awarded through NOAA Sea Grant and NOAA Office of Sustainable Fisheries (more specifically, through the “Food from the Sea” Careers Program).

The work funded by this grant enables the Michigan and Wisconsin Sea Grant programs to collaborate on building the framework for a Great Lakes commercial fisheries apprenticeship program over the next six months. Project leads for this effort are Titus Seilheimer, Wisconsin Sea Grant fisheries specialist, and Lauren Jescovitch, a Michigan Sea Grant extension educator in the Upper Peninsula. Moen will also be a key player. Together, the team will assess apprenticeship program needs among both tribal and nontribal fishers. The implementation phase of the apprenticeship program will be funded by the two-year grant.

Titus Seilheimer, fisheries outreach specialist.

A third grant of $50,000 enables the Eat Wisconsin Fish initiative to continue to grow its outreach potential over the next year. Moen leads this project.

“It is exciting that NOAA Sea Grant selected these three Wisconsin proposals for funding,” said Moen. “Food fish—both wild-caught and farm-raised in the U.S.—is an important part of our economy and food security. This funding will enable us to build on our efforts to help commercial fishers and fish farmers thrive in a challenging environment.”

The commercial fishing side of the projects focuses on developing the Great Lakes region’s first-ever apprenticeship program in fishing and fish processing. “Commercial fisheries across the country are graying as the older generation gets older, but who will take the wheel to keep these fisheries going?” said Seilheimer.

Continued Seilheimer, “Our work will build the framework for an apprenticeship program to train the next generation of commercial fishers. We will learn from tribal and state fishers about the needs and wants for a new training program. We hope to build an apprenticeship program that will provide an experienced workforce for tribal and commercial fisheries for years to come to support sustainable Great Lakes fisheries.”

Clarence Pratt of the Red Cliff Fish Co. shows a vacuum-sealed package of lake trout from Lake Superior that has just been processed. (Photo: Bonnie Willison)

While the pandemic has been tough all-around, noted Moen, “It has had a disproportionate impact on Indigenous commercial fishers.” One partner in this project is the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, which operates the Red Cliff Fish Co. The fish market prioritizes local retail sales and supplying Lake Superior fish to Native American elders.

While other states have apprenticeship programs focused on commercial fishing and fish processing, Moen said this one will focus on needs specific to the Great Lakes.

The aquaculture side of the projects will include efforts to inform fish consumers and the general public about fish-farming methods.

“Aquaculture in the U.S. has come a long way in the last several decades, and public perceptions have not kept up with reality,” said Moen. “Regulations in the U.S. as a whole are quite strict, and even more so here in Wisconsin, which should give consumers confidence that they’re choosing a safe product that has been raised responsibly. It pays to check labels or ask at the fish counter when you’re shopping.”

Moen and Seilheimer will carry out the funded activities along with members of Sea Grant’s science communication and education teams.

At their core, the three grant-funded projects are responding to challenges faced by Wisconsin fish farms and commercial fishers, from pandemics to workforce issues. “In the end,” said Moen, “We want to create a stronger food network and food systems so that when future disruptions happen, we’ll be better prepared.”

Those interested in learning more about these projects may contact Sharon Moen or Titus Seilheimer.

The post Wisconsin Sea Grant awarded $334,000 to support state’s commercial fishing and aquaculture industries first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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News Releases | Wisconsin Sea Grant

News Releases | Wisconsin Sea Grant

Jennifer Smith

In late June, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) designated Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary (WSCNMS or sanctuary) in the fresh, cold waters of Lake Michigan. Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary Designation; Final Regulations, 86 Fed. Reg. 32,737 (to be codified at 15 C.F.R pt. 922). Following a review by Congress and the governor of Wisconsin, the designation will become effective in the first weeks of August, at which time NOAA will publish an announcement in the Federal Register. It will be the 16th national sanctuary and only the second in freshwater.

Authorized by the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce designates and protects sanctuaries of special significance for many reasons, including for their conservation, recreational, historical and educational qualities. The National Marine Sanctuaries Act aims to protect a sanctuary’s biological and cultural resources such as historic shipwrecks and archaeological sites. The secretary has delegated sanctuary management to NOAA. The Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast NMS, which is located in state waters adjacent to Ozaukee, Sheboygan, Manitowoc and Kewaunee counties, will be co-managed by the state of Wisconsin and NOAA.

“The new sanctuary brings well-deserved focus to the history and resources of this part of the Great Lakes. I am looking forward to new opportunities to work with another NOAA group on future education and outreach programs,” said Titus Seilheimer, a Wisconsin Sea Grant outreach specialist based in Manitowoc. For more than seven years, Seilheimer has coordinated sanctuary siting efforts with community leaders.

Fisheries Outreach Specialist Titus Seilheimer is gratified that seven years of collaborative planning for a new sanctuary has paid off.  (Photo: Wisconsin Sea Grant)

Encompassing more than 22,000 square miles, Lake Michigan is the second largest of the five Great Lakes. The lake’s water, and its fresh, cold temperatures are credited for playing a significant role in preserving 36 known shipwrecks and approximately 59 suspected shipwrecks with exceptional historical, archeological and recreational artifacts. The sanctuary has partnered with other groups to create web-accessible detailed maps of the lakebed, with potential for discovery of other wrecks. The documented ships wrecked within the 962 square miles of waters and submerged land of the WSCNMS, date back to as early as the 1800s.  They represent a part of history during the 19th and 20th centuries, when vessels of the like sailed and steamed west throughout Lake Michigan carrying goods, raw materials, and people. has details on Lake Michigan wrecks, along with those in Lake Superior and inland waters. There is also information other maritime attractions. 

One of the more notable wrecks in the sanctuary lies 165 feet below the surface. Sitting fully intact and upright on the lakebed is the Walter B. Allen, a 136-foot long boxy-hulled “canaller,” which sailed from 1866-1880. Walter B. Allen is a wooden schooner, which was used to transport grain and coal between New York and Chicago. Historically, canallers, like the Walter B. Allen, were constructed specifically to fit perfectly through the Welland Canal Locks and are unique to the Great Lakes.

Sea Grant funding allowed for the 3-D imaging of the Walter B. Allen by partners at the Wisconsin Historical Society. (Photo: Tamara Thomsen, Wisconsin Historical Society)

The preservation of the wrecks within the sanctuary extends beyond just the ships, as even the cargo remains intact. Among these preserved artifacts are locally produced goods, Christmas trees, general merchandise, a submerged aircraft and even cars, including 264 Nash automobiles from 1929. The designation protects artifacts from potential loss and damage by anchors from dive boats, entanglement of fishing gear, poorly attached mooring lines and the moving of, theft, or looting of the sunken artifacts. There is also the ever-present threat from further invasive species being introduced to the lake waters. Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary Designation; Final Regulations, 86 Fed. Reg. at 32,738.

Shipwreck artifacts, such as a Christmas tree (visible in the lower left), also tell the story of final Great Lakes’ voyages. (Photo: Tamara Thomsen, Wisconsin Historical Society)

The designation plans for the sanctuary are geared toward ensuring that it not only continues to exist, but also engages the community. For instance, the sanctuary is expected to boost the local economy by attracting 70,000 tourists from around the region, nation and globe each year and bringing in an estimated $10 million

Additionally, in response to community concerns, NOAA established a  Sanctuary Advisory Council comprising a diverse group of community leaders to provide advice on management and protection. With an incredible and rich maritime story, the sanctuary will provide communities a platform for heritage tourism as they educate and organize around an underwater museum.

Following the designation, NOAA announced a ban on grappling into or anchoring on shipwreck sites that will remain until October 2023. The ban provides NOAA with time to create a mooring program, develop maps, and install a permanent mooring system that balances public access and resource protection.

After several years of relying on state laws and Lake Michigan’s fresh cold waters as protection, the artifacts that lay on the lakebed will now enjoy more collaborative protections to help them survive for posterity. With history buffs and adventure seekers alike soon able to safely participate in regulated exploration and discoveries within her waters, the future of the Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary and all that she has to discover is bright.

The post New marine sanctuary adds protections for historic Lake Michigan shipwrecks first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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News Releases | Wisconsin Sea Grant

News Releases | Wisconsin Sea Grant

Moira Harrington

White suckers migrate up Silver Creek in Manitowoc to spawn. Image credit: Titus Seilheimer

By Titus Seilheimer, Wisconsin Sea Grant Fisheries Outreach Specialist

Spring is the right time to head to your local stream to see the migration and spawning of Great Lakes sucker species. As water temperatures warm, white and longnose suckers feel the need to move from the Great Lakes into tributaries. They congregate in large groups and create the next generation of fish.

Sucker migrations are ecologically important, especially to smaller headwater streams, which benefit from the nutrients and energy inside the suckers as they move from the Great Lakes deep into watersheds. Suckers get a bad rap from anglers and the public because of the misconceptions that they eat sportfish eggs and compete with desirable species. However, small suckers are important food sources for many predator species and have a vital ecological role in our food webs.

Smaller streams can be great locations to spot these fish, because they mostly ignore people when spawning is on their minds. Suckers will start spawning in early April when the water reaches 7 degrees C (45 degrees F) and will return to the lake when finished. Temperature is an important cue along with water flow.

Yesterday in Manitowoc, I spotted about 100 white suckers in Silver Creek. Some were actively spawning and others were hanging out in a deep pool (probably waiting to move upstream). Areas with gravel and good flowing water are spawning habitat for suckers. This is what the scene might look like

Sucker-watching tips

If they are splashing, they are spawning! White suckers in Silver Creek in Manitowoc. Image credit: Titus Seilheimer

Find a fairly shallow or narrow stream or river to watch. Water clarity is important because it’s hard to see fish in a cloudy or turbid river. Cut down the glare with polarized sunglasses. For observing spawning suckers, find a rocky area with moving water. Sit on the bank and watch. Early and late in the day are good times to look for active spawning. Keep an eye open for other species too, like small fishes or crayfish. White suckers are common throughout Wisconsin, so many streams will have spawning happening even away from the Great Lakes.

If community science to track suckers is interesting, check out the Shedd Aquarium’s sucker monitoring program in Lake Michigan. Karen Murchie is working with volunteers up the Lake Michigan coast to record daily numbers of suckers at specific sites and learn more about why and when suckers migrate. Follow these hashtags on social media #suckerforsuckers #drabisthenewfab #suckerwatch2021.

If you’re close to northeastern Wisconsin (and it is safe to travel), watching the spawning sturgeon in the Wolf River is another must-do trip. Mid-April to early May is the typical time to see these ancient giants up close!

And here’s a Sea Grant video of sturgeon spawning:

The post Quiet time with the fish. Spring is the time for fish watching. first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Blog – Wisconsin Sea Grant

Blog – Wisconsin Sea Grant

Marie Zhuikov

As 2020 winds down, we asked staff members at Wisconsin Sea Grant what their favorite project was this year. Although work was a bit more challenging than usual due to our altered work circumstances, everyone managed to stay productive, and even find fulfillment.

Titus Seilheimer. Image credit: Wisconsin Sea Grant

Our fisheries specialist, Titus Seilheimer’s favorite project is Great Lakes Aquaculture Day. This annual event for the Great Lakes Aquaculture Collaborative was held on October 10. Seilheimer said, “We had to move the event online and had a full day of interactive sessions for new farmers, current farmers and consumers. There was a lot of planning to make it happen, but the most fun part of the day was when Elliot Nelson and I were emcees for a virtual Iron Chef-style cooking contest. Although that sounds strange, it actually worked really well.”

The recordings for Great Lakes Aquaculture Day are available online. Learn more about this Great Lakes Sea Grant Network effort on its website.

Seilheimer said the event was a team effort from Elliot Nelson and Lauren Jescovitch (Michigan Sea Grant), Emma Wiermaa (Wisconsin Sea Grant and Univ. of Wisconsin Stevens Point-Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility), Amy Schrank (Minnesota Sea Grant), and himself, with essential help from Cindy Hudson and Geneva Langeland from the Michigan Sea Grant communications team.

The post Sea Grant staff project faves, Titus Seilheimer first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Blog – Wisconsin Sea Grant

Blog – Wisconsin Sea Grant

Marie Zhuikov

All welcome at this free, virtual event

The first Sea Grant Great Lakes Aquaculture Day will be held Saturday, October 10. The online event will showcase the region’s potential for fish and seafood production and include a culinary competition. 

The event is free and open to the public. Registration is required. Activities begin at 8:30 a.m. and end at 4:30 p.m. central time with the cooking challenge, in which culinary students will test their creativity and flair.

The day will feature a variety of panel discussions and presentations on aquaculture. Those presentations will be targeted at a variety of audiences, from beginning and current farmers to consumers interested in learning more about preparing and cooking seafood.

The event is hosted by the Sea Grant Great Lakes Aquaculture Collaborative, a project of Sea Grant programs across the region—including Wisconsin Sea Grant—that are working to share resources and promote best practices in the aquaculture industry. 

Emma Wiermaa of Wisconsin Sea Grant and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility (NADF) will be one of the presenters at Great Lakes Aquaculture Day. She is pictured with NADF Assistant Director and Research Program Manager Greg Fischer. (Photo: Narayan Mahon)

Wisconsin Sea Grant outreach specialists Emma Wiermaa—who holds a joint position with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility in Bayfield, where she is based—and Titus Seilheimer, a fisheries specialist, will participate in the event.

The day will conclude with a cooking demonstration featuring Chef Jeff Igel of the Wisconsin Technical College System, followed by a competition between three culinary students from the Great Lakes region. Each student will be required to use a key ingredient and local aquaculture products in his or her dish. 

The Great Lakes Aquaculture Collaborative is currently accepting applications from post-secondary students for the competition. The three students selected will each receive a $250 stipend to cover ingredients costs and time. 

All Great Lakes Aquaculture Day attendees will be able to interact with other participants throughout the event and during breakout lunch gatherings. 

As the fastest-growing sector of agriculture worldwide, aquaculture now accounts for more than 50% of world seafood production, surpassing that from wild-caught fisheries. However, aquaculture growth in the U.S. has been stagnant, and seafood supply from U.S.-based, wild-caught fisheries is not enough to meet nationwide demand. One result of that is a $14 billion seafood trade deficit. 

The U.S. aquaculture industry has potential for growth, particularly in the Great Lakes region, where abundant inland freshwater resources have enabled a handful of state-based aquaculture operations to employ a local workforce and produce sustainable, healthy and tasty fish. 

For more information about the Sea Grant Great Lakes Aquaculture Day 2020 event and registration, visit the Great Lakes Aquaculture Collaborative website or contact Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educator Elliot Nelson. For information about the Sea Grant Great Lakes Aquaculture Collaborative, contact Minnesota Sea Grant Extension Educator Amy Schrank.

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News Releases – Wisconsin Sea Grant

News Releases – Wisconsin Sea Grant

Jennifer Smith

A burbot. Image credit: Titus Seilheimer, Wisconsin Sea Grant

Shark Week, Aug. 9 -16, is a cherished annual tradition. In what I am hoping will also become a cherished tradition, Sea Grant presents a counter-Shark-Week look at a denizen of the sweetwater seas. A previous blog post regaled a number of Wisconsin fish. This 2020 edition offers five facts about the burbot.

The scientific name for this fish in the cod family is an onomatopoeia dream: Lota lota. It’s got other common names in addition to burbot, including lawyer, eelpout and lingcod.

The Grumpy Burbot (the alter ego of Sea Grant Fisheries Specialist Titus Seilheimer) has its own Twitter handle.

The fish is a bottom-dweller. Maybe this elusive home is why some of us Sea Grant staffers couldn’t eat them even though they were on the menu when we visited KK Fiske and The Granary in 2017. We had heard they were good eating but restaurant owner and commercial fisher on Door County’s Washington Island Ken Koyen hadn’t caught any that day. Burbot is not a target species and most that show up in whitefish and lake trout nets are discarded. Broiled and served with butter, however, the fish are said to taste like Poor Man’s Lobster.

Sea Grant funded a study about the birds and bees of burbot to better understand the entire Lake Michigan food web. Researcher John Janssen said, ““Burbot interact with many other fish. They like to eat a lot of sculpins, which are eaten by lake trout, and sculpins eat lake trout eggs. Knowing more about when and how burbot spawn adds more information to figure out the interactions between species.”

Much more burbot intel is available on the Eat Wisconsin Fish website. Details on the burbot study can be found here.

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Blog – Wisconsin Sea Grant

Blog – Wisconsin Sea Grant

Moira Harrington

Chuck Shea, with the USACE, explains the 120-year history of the canal and its charge from Congress to stop the spread of AIS through the canal — a charge that came in 1996. Image by Moira Harrington.

Last Friday, I went to the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which is outfitted with a set of thrumming electrical barriers. These barriers churn out an alternating current 34 times per second, each with a duration of 2.3 milliseconds. The goal is to turn back any invasive Asian carp set on making the journey into the world’s largest freshwater system. If established, it’s theorized the voracious eaters would decimate food sources at the expense of larger native fish.

I went with Bonnie Willison, Sea Grant’s digital storyteller, and Sydney Widell, an undergraduate with our program. Fisheries Specialist Titus Seilheimer and Southeast Wisconsin Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Specialist Molly Bodde met us there, as did Chris Hamerla, a regional aquatic invasive species specialist with Golden Sands Resource and Conservation Development Council Inc., and Paul Skawinski, citizen lake monitoring network educator from the University of Wisconsin-Extension Lakes Program. Both are based in Stevens Point.

Willison and Widell are working on a multipart podcast series with a focus on AIS. Willison was tenacious in her efforts to secure permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for our visit to Romeoville, Illinois. These are the folks who manage the site of what’s been called the world’s largest electric barrier, actually three of them with 155-foot sections of electrodes at the bottom of the 27-foot-deep canal.

A fourth barrier is under construction and will have three times the power of the existing ones. The USACE plans to throw the switch on that in early 2021.

This is ground zero in the battle to keep Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes through a manmade waterway linking Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River Basin. It’s a 120-year-old unnatural connection, enabling marine transport and a cleaner Chicago, since stormwater and treated wastewater now flows out of that city thanks to an engineering feat that reversed the natural course of the water. It’s also provided a highway to mix species between the two aquatic systems that nature never intended to mix.

I’m not someone who geeks out on engineering, shipping or electricity. And it certainly wasn’t the promise of lovely waterside aesthetics that drew me south. This section of the canal is set amid a heavily industrialized stretch with belching petrochemical refineries.

The area around the electrical barriers is heavily industrialized. Image by Moira Harrington.

No, my emotions got revving because of what this place represents. Eight USACE employees, some consultants with barrier manufacturer Smith-Root and a whole lot of electrical buzz are all that stands between the Illinois River’s Starved Rock Pool, which supposedly holds the planet’s largest concentration of Asian carp and is about 60 miles from where I visited, and the rippling waves of Lake Michigan. Wow!

I wasn’t the only one expressing emotions. Widell said she has “peaked” now that she’s had a visit. Our lead AIS Specialist Tim Campbell wasn’t able to make the trip but responded to Seilheimer, aka @DrFish on Twitter, with #jealous.

Hamerla told the story about how Skawinski had texted him earlier in the week: “Call me ASAP.” When the two connected and Skawinski extended the invitation, Hamerla’s response was reportedly an enthusiastic, “Heck, yea,” leading to a 4 a.m. departure from Stevens Point to meet at the appointed hour.

Strong feelings weren’t limited to our group. Chuck Shea, USACE barrier project manager, said what motivates him on a daily basis is, “Knowing that you’re working on something that benefits so many people.”

The podcast episode about Asian carp and the barrier will be released in spring or early summer. At that time and after listening, Willison and Widell are betting you’ll get some emotions going, too.

Original Article

Blog – Wisconsin Sea Grant

Blog – Wisconsin Sea Grant

Moira Harrington