THE BROOK TROUT
Michigan is one of nine states that has designated the brook trout as its state fish, doing so in 1988. The Boardman River is one of the few remaining wild brook trout fisheries in Michigan, hosting a self-sustaining population of brook and brown trout. The river has not been stocked since the 1960s.
We want to keep it that way.
Since the removal of the Brown Bridge Dam in 2012, the Boardman River has seen a resurgence in the number of brook trout in the middle section of the river. Because brook trout can survive only in cold, clean water, they are considered to be an indicator of the overall health of a river. The increased numbers of these beautiful — albeit mostly small — trout in the Boardman are an encouraging sign that the river, with an infusion of nutrients provided by native fish and some habitat improvement, can one day rightfully lay claim to its designation as a “blue ribbon” trout stream (of the 179 miles of river and tributaries, 36 miles are designated as “blue ribbon” trout habitat).
However, the Michigan DNR, in a continuing effort to monetize as much of the fresh water in Michigan as it can, is planning to send hatchery-raised Lake Michigan steelhead — a non-native species — up the Boardman to satisfy what DNR officials call an “insatiable appetite” among steelhead fishermen for lunker steelhead. Given that scientific studies have shown that steelhead out-compete brook trout and push brook trout into a river’s headwaters, the introduction of steelhead into the Boardman would sound the death knell for the Boardman River brook trout.
Although there are very few rivers that empty into the Great Lakes that do not contain steelhead and salmon, DNR officials are nevertheless determined to turn the Boardman into a steelhead nursery. This is despite the fact that scientific studies have shown that many Great Lakes fish are infected with bacterial kidney disease, infectious pancreatic necrosis and other diseases.
Why is the DNR willing to jeopardize the health of a pristine and uninfected river system?