Rebuttals to Reader Comments on The Forgotten River Article III
By Charles Chandler and Mark Heying
The recent articles suggesting removing the old White River dams at Hesperia and White Cloud, have generated considerable interest, questions and comments on social media. Here are some of those questions, and the authors replies. These replies are based not on opinion, but on the facts, which are based on careful studies done by those experts who have dedicated their professional lives to learning the answers presented here. Facts matter.
Question: There’s an old rumor, still going, that a nation-wide fishing organization put carp into White Cloud Pond, to drive out the trout and ruin the fishing. Is that true?
Answer: No. Carp didn’t drive the trout out of White Cloud Pond. The water temperature did. Trout need clean, cold water in order to survive. They need cold water because they need a lot of oxygen. Cold water has a lot of oxygen, warm water has less, and very warm water has a lot less. White Cloud Pond is shallow, getting shallower, and warmer, with every passing year. There may be a few trout that drift into the Pond in the cold weather months, but they can’t survive there in the summer. Carp can. They need much less oxygen to survive.
(see first paragraph page 40)
As an example, and regarding the comments about the fish populations in White Cloud Pond. On Monday June 3rd DNR agents began a typical fish sampling survey of the White Cloud Pond. They set a series of large and small mesh nets at various locations around the Pond. Passerby’s may have noticed the red buoys that marked the location of the sampling nets. The preliminary sampling report after 3 days of netting was “a few small bass, a few pike, one brown trout, one crappie, and one yellow perch.
The most numerous fishes were white suckers, carp, and hybrid sunfish.” The sunfish were recently dumped in for the June 1st Kids Fish Free Day event. A Typical sample for an old shallow, warm and forgotten Pond. According to the DNR agents the full sampling report will be published in the Spring of 2020 and can be found on the DNR website.
Question: Is it true that the Michigan DNR has been thinking about the re-introduction of Grayling into the White River?
Answer: Yes. Years ago, Brown, Rainbow and Brook Trout were introduced to Michigan rivers. Before then, Grayling were the only native salmonids. They were, unfortunately, wiped out by logging and over-fishing, and have been gone from Michigan streams for 100 years. Now the Michigan DNR is considering re-introducing these incredible fish back into the White River. They will only live in waters that are cold year-round. Therefore, in the current state of the River, they would have to be put in above the White Cloud Dam.
The Alaskan Grayling thrive in waters alongside five different kinds of salmon, rainbow trout, char, whitefish, and other predatory fish. Grayling populations are limited by the quality of water and supporting habitat they need to thrive in, and not by competition with other fish.
This is a huge opportunity for the City of White Cloud. City residents should strongly encourage the re-introduction of these beautiful and remarkable native fish back into the White River.
Question: Some people say that, if salmon and steelhead were allowed to go past Hesperia Dam, it would ruin the upstream trout fishing. Is that right?
Answer: No. Trout, salmon, and steelhead can live together just fine. They have done so for thousands and thousands of years. They do in nearby Bigelow Creek. They do in nearby Pere Marquette River. And if allowed to, they’ll do just fine in the upper White River as well.
The fact is that salmon and steelhead make a river healthier. Salmon generally enter our Michigan rivers around the end of August and begin spawning in September. As the females begin digging their redds (nesting beds) in the gravel they dislodge trout food, mayflies, stoneflies, caddis flies, and midge nymphs that are living in the streams, and the trout gobble them up. Then, as the females drop their eggs, the trout will eat as many as they can. These protein-packed eggs are like ribeye to the trout, and they fatten very quickly.
After spawning the salmon die and their decaying bodies provide a rich supply of nutrients for other fish, crayfish and stream microorganisms. After they hatch, salmon and steelhead fry and fingerlings are eaten by the trout. Studies show that mink, otters, ospreys, kingfishers, great blue herons, pike, large predatory brown trout, fishermen and thermal pollution are far more detrimental to the resident trout population than migratory salmon or steelhead.
In the case of the upper White River, (below White Cloud Dam), the high summer water temperature is the real killer when it comes to trout population.
For a great video on a fly-fishing watch Frank Willitts Pere Marquette Lodge businessman and fishing guide.
Follow these two link to photos of salmon, steelhead, and trout, all caught in the same river.
Question If the Hesperia Dam is taken out, the lamprey will invade the upper White River. Is this true?
Answer: Yes and No. If the entire structure was removed it would allow the lamprey access to the upper White. But there are other options rather than removing the entire dam.
A short dam, 2 feet or so, will prevent lamprey from migrating upstream. The Homestead Dam on the Betsie River near Benzonia, MI was mostly removed in 1974 and currently acts as a lamprey barrier. It impounds little water and does not impede upstream salmon or steelhead migrations.
Question: People say that if the salmon and steelhead are allowed to go up past Hesperia Dam, the fisherman will stop showing up there, and Hesperia’s economy will suffer. Is that right?
Answer: No. It’s exactly wrong. Take a trip to the above-mentioned Homestead Dam, and see for yourself. Or watch the following YouTube video. During the fishing season you’ll find the parking lots full of cars, from all over the country, and the river full of fishermen and women. And you’ll see something else; people coming just to see, and photograph, the fish as they fight their way up above and past the short dam. If Hesperia and White Cloud had a similar structure, fishermen and tourists from all over Michigan, and more, would find their way there to fish and watch.
All comments to these articles regarding our Forgotten River are appreciated. Discussions involving change, especially about removing the two dams, is very controversial and should continue. Hopefully these discussions will become less emotional, and instead be based on facts, rather than misinformation and rumor.
Watch Near North Now for upcoming articles discussing the year after year economic penalties that White Cloud and Hesperia are experiencing because of their two dams.
You may gain a new perspective.
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