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FishPass baseline assessment of fish community assemblage and migratory patterns in in the Boardman River, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

November 30, 2023

This report on baseline assessment of fish community assemblage and migratory patterns of fishes in the lower Boardman River (LBR; Traverse City, MI (USA)) is one of four assessment projects conceived circa 2017 after the Boardman (Ottaway) River was selected by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) and collaborating agencies as the future site of the Selective Bi-directional Fish Passage (FishPass) project. This report describes the results from
fisheries community sampling from 2017-2021 and the concurrent bio-telemetry project aimed at understanding phenological changes in the fish community and movement and space-use of a variety of large-bodied fishes in the LBR against which selective fish passage treatments will be developed and evaluated.
Fish migration in riverine environments is a growing area of concern as mounting anthropogenic influences, particularly fragmentation from dams and barriers, constitute a major threat to global river species diversity. Specifically, In the Laurentian Great Lakes basin, more than 250,000 dams, weirs, culverts, and other significant obstructions prevent the movement of species both between the Great Lakes and rivers, and within rivers. Barriers
impede the movement of fishes between areas critical to the completion of their lifecycle, affecting both population and ecosystem viability. However, a conundrum arises in that the same barriers can also prevent the upstream invasion of non-native or undesirable species (most notably the sea lamprey Petromyzon marinus in the Great Lakes),prevent the transfer of contaminants and diseases, halt deleterious genes, provide recreational opportunities, or
generate power. As a result, fish passage solutions with the capability of selectively passing desirable taxa while restricting the dispersal of undesirable taxa (selective connectivity) are sought to solve this connectivity conundrum. FishPass is a multi-agency initiative planned to replace the Union Street Dam on the Boardman River in Traverse City,MI (USA), aimed at developing and implementing automatic or semiautomatic selective bi-directional fish guidance,
sorting, and passage techniques and technologies. Pivotal to both the successful development of selective connectivity and assessment of its effects is a more complete understanding of the Boardman River’s fishery. Specifically, understanding the species and size composition of the fish community, fish movement phenology and the associated abiotic conditions.

Fish community sampling confirmed the presence of 28 unique species in the LBR (Boardman River reach below Union Street Dam). Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag telemetry increased the resolution of phenological shifts in the fish community that could not have been captured from periodic fish sampling. This data demonstrates large variation within species and overlap between species presence. However, discrete periods of presence were identified across most species when considering the central tendencies in the distribution of their presence. Rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss were found to be omni-present in the river while brown trout Salmo trutta and smallmouth bass Micropterus dolomieu also persisted throughout a majority of the year; all of which will require continually sorting at FishPass. PIT tag telemetry also provided the important understanding that individuals (3-64%) of all species return to
the LBR across multiple years.

Radio telemetry (RT) proved useful in refining the entry and exit timing and in evaluating the proportion of individuals that encountered the current Union Street Dam and Kid’s Creek (the only tributary confluence below the Union Street Dam) across six species (common white sucker Catostomus commersonii, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, walleye Sander vitreus, brown trout, and common carp Cyprinus carpio). The RT results show that these species are present in FishPass Research Publication: baseline assessment
of fish community assemblage and migratory pattern in the Boardman River, Traverse City, Michigan, USA November 2023 7 between April and August. Our analysis also demonstrated that not all fish that entered the river proceeded to the Union Street Dam, but those that did, did so prior to being detected encountering Kid’s Creek. Common white sucker and rainbow trout were the only species to be detected encountering Kid’s Creek.

Collectively, the results of this study provide a baseline understanding of the seasonal fish diversity and relative abundance of fishes in the LBR, and a basic description of observed movement patterns of a subset of species in the context of seasonal phenology, entry and exit behavior within the LBR, and the propensity at which telemetered individuals encounter the Union Street dam and/or Kid’s Creek.

Publication Year 2023
Title FishPass baseline assessment of fish community assemblage and migratory patterns in in the Boardman River, Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Authors Reid G. Swanson, Daniel P. Zielinski, Theodore Castro-Santos, Andrew M. Muir
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Index ID 70250696
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Ecological Science Center