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Study investigates movements of brown trout cropping up in Saginaw Bay

Courtesy Photo
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Brown trout are popping up in the Saginaw Bay and may be leaving the Rifle River. The state is now asking anglers to report if they catch brown trout with tags in the bay region.

Twenty trout will be released with electronic transmitters that will "ping" receivers in the bay, allowing researchers to track the fish movements. Stocked fish will also have clips corresponding to their release location along the Rifle River.

"We're not exactly sure yet why they're all of a sudden popping up in the bay," said April Simmons, a fisheries management biologist. "We stopped stocking the bay in 2012 because it wasn't working, and now they're going out in the bay on their own."

Simmons said there may be several environmental factors driving trout into Lake Huron when past efforts to introduce the species into the bay have failed.

"There could be too many of them in the river, and so they're searching for more space and food," Simmons said. "Or is the ecosystem in Saginaw Bay more appetizing now because we have round goby out there and brown trout will feed on them?"

Tracking the trout will help the DNR understand how they're moving and where they're hanging around, which would inform future management decisions.

"It'll help us verify if these fish coming from the Rifle, (if they're) staying in the bay or going out to the main basin," Simmons said. "Are they moving up and down the coast and then which river are they returning back to the spawn?"

Simmons said brown trout moving into the Saginaw Bay may help reduce invasive species, relieve competition with native brook trout in the river and improve angling opportunities.

If anglers catch a fish with a tag or internal transmitter, Simmons said they should report their catch to the state and can return transmitters for a cash reward.

Editor's note: In the interest of transparency, we note that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is a financial supporter of WCMU.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corps Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She covers rural environmental issues, focused on contamination, conservation, and climate change.
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