GLFT Funds Stream Fish Population Trend Viewer

Visit the DNR Stream Fish Population Trend Viewer Website

trend-viewer3With all the problems that plague the Great Lakes watershed, biologists and resource managers don’t have a lot of time on their hands. Researcher Troy Zorn and his team set out to take one more thing off their plate.

The Stream Fish Population Trend Viewer, created by Zorn and his team, is an online, user-friendly tool that features up-to-date trend data on specific fish populations within more than 40 local and regional rivers and streams. Some of these inland waters include the Pere Marquette River, Bear Creek, the Huron River, and the Manistee River. Fish species the viewer tracks are brown trout, smallmouth bass, coho salmon, rainbow trout, and brook trout.

Instead of getting this information from biologists and resource managers, those interested can go online and look for it themselves through the trend viewer. The anywhere-anytime convenience benefits the user and the do-it-yourself nature benefits the scientists.

The data for the Stream Fish Population Trend Viewer is collected via the Status and Trends Program (STP), implemented by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division (MDNR) in 2002. While the program was implemented 13 years ago, the STP includes data that goes back approximately 50 years.

The STP uses standardized sample methods to collect and evaluate data, which includes habitat measurements, water-quality sampling, and electrofishing results. These data are used to monitor the statewide statuses and trends of the streams and help with stream management. The Stream Fish Population Trend Viewer hosts this data.

However, it took more than ten years for the trend viewer to become realized, due to funding constraints.

According to Zorn, a fisheries research biologist at the Marquette Fisheries Research Station, agency reorganization and budget cutbacks were the main funding obstacles. In order to make the viewer a reality, Zorn looked into funding through the Great Lakes Fishery Trust.

“It was very much an exercise in persistence,” Zorn said. “During that time, we were doing these surveys and we were accumulating the data we assign to the tool now. If we started with only two or three years’ worth of data at a number of sites, it wouldn’t be as interesting to the user. And now we have ten years of data in a lot of sites.”

The Stream Fish Population Trend Viewer can be used in a number of ways. Users can log on and see the status of current populations or track populations over time.

“There are a lot of anglers out there who are dedicated to understanding how the fishery is doing and how it’s changing,” said Bryan Burroughs, executive director at Michigan Trout Unlimited. “This allows the public to see stream trends on their own terms. They can track and monitor a stream pretty easily.”

In addition to the general public, resource managers will be able to study their sites in depth and then compare it to other sites within seconds. While the viewer is primarily for resource managers, it provides information that is useful for anglers and bait shops. In turn, this saves the managers time.

“These are the type of questions our managers typically get asked—‘How’s fishing going to be this year?’ ‘How are the populations looking?’” Zorn said. “We thought it would be very useful for the general population to have this information and see for themselves what trends we’re looking at—and see things from our perspective. It basically would save them from contacting the DNR office.”

trend-viewer2The trend viewer saves biologists time in more than one way, too. It is also automated to summarize and update survey sites, which means biologists no longer have to produce this information themselves.

“The GLFT supported the Stream Fish Population Trend Viewer project for a number of reasons,” said Jon Beard, grant manager for the GLFT. “The format is extremely accessible and easy to use for management agencies and the general public. In making the viewer easy to use, we save time for resource managers.”

The viewer also gives biologists an opportunity to explore their sites deeper.

“There’s quite a bit they can learn that helps them better understand their site,” Zorn said. “It also helps us understand what’s going on in trout streams around the whole area, and probably even in streams they haven’t actually surveyed.”

Despite the challenges and its decade-plus development, Zorn is extremely satisfied with the finished product.

“The outcome met our expectations perfectly,” he said. “We achieved exactly what we were hoping to, and the product is the way we envisioned it. We’re delighted with how it came out.”

All images on this page are from the Stream Fish Population Trend Viewer. Courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division.