Brook Trout Restoration at Sleeping Bear Dunes

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Date: August 29, 2016

The clear waters of Otter Creek in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Lakeshore) provide a home for native brook trout, but they are not present in high numbers. Research suggests that habitat restoration may be the key to increasing their abundance and distribution in Otter Creek.

Brett Fessel (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians) will present a program entitled “Otter Creek Brook Trout Restoration” on September 8 at 9:30 a.m. at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center Auditorium in Empire, Michigan.

His presentation will provide a history of Otter Creek and the surrounding area, data collection efforts and findings used to inform a proposed restoration plan, and an overview and basis of the restoration design. A comprehensive assessment of fisheries, habitat, water quality and hydrology suggests that the relatively low habitat complexity is linked to the extremely low natural recruitment rate of instream large wood features, due primarily to clearing from large-scale logging efforts conducted nearly a century ago. 

Restoration of the instream habitat to a condition more closely resembling the pre-logging era is proposed. Records indicate the watershed was last logged in 1908, leaving a relatively short period of time for the system to recover from channelization and removal of large woody material. In evaluating the existing habitat in Otter Creek and its multiple spring fed tributaries (which are often sourced by upwellings of cold water), it is evident that three key elements are limiting: 1) Spawning and incubation areas near or over upwellings; 2) In-stream resting, feeding and escape cover in spring tributaries for juveniles; and 3) Instream resting and feeding cover for adults in the main stem and escape cover from predators.

Brett Fessel is a River Ecologist and Restoration Section Leader for the Natural Resources Department of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Fish and Wildlife Management from Lake Superior State University in 1993 and a Master of Science degree in Fishery Management from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1995. Brett has been working for the Grand Traverse Band’s Natural Resources Department for 20 years. He has been engaged in a wide variety of initiatives, projects, and work, including Treaty Rights negotiation, development and implementation of regulatory and monitoring programs, systems and protocols for resource management, and restoration and protection. 

This talk is part of a Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore speaker series called “Research Rendezvous.” To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the NPS and highlight the value of national parks as our nation’s “living laboratories,” the National Lakeshore is hosting a series of public talks by park researchers in 2016. All Research Rendezvous presentations offered at the National Lakeshore are free. The next “Research Rendezvous” presentation after this one is:

"Evaluating and Preserving Dark Skies at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore" by Kevin Skerl (Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore) and Dr. Jerry Dobek (Northwestern Michigan College) on Thursday, October 13 at 9:30 a.m.

Talks are scheduled once or twice a month throughout 2016, with more being added frequently. Please check our events calendar for the current schedule of upcoming talks. 

Last updated: August 30, 2016

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