By Coggin Heeringa, Interpretive Naturalist, Crossroads at Big Creek, Inc.
Construction on the new bridge at Crossroads at Big Creek is on hold until June. The reason is revealed in the name of the bridge – Pike Passage. Big Creek is up, our floodplains and wetlands are full of water and Northern Pike are making their way through the preserve to spawn.
It would be environmentally irresponsible (and also illegal) to bring heavy equipment into the riparian wetlands while the fish are making their annual migration.
How far do pike go? Farther than we realized. Last year, with the help of Mike Grimm, we installed temporary traps in Big Creek north of the preserve. Newly hatched pike (“small fry”) were found far upstream. This spring we will expand our research.
Students from Sunrise School involved in the Earthworks after-school environmental education program at Crossroads located a number of pike last week. One young naturalist asked, “Is there such a thing as an invasive fish?”
The answer is an emphatic YES! Invasive Sea Lampreys came close to decimating the Great Lakes fisheries in the 1940s. Fisheries biologists were able to knock back these invasive fish with lampricides, but lampreys continue to be a threat and will be as long as the adults have tributaries in which to lay their eggs.
That is the topic of the FISH TALES LECTURE at Crossroad on Wednesday, April 12, at 7:00 p.m. Dr. Daniel Zielinski, from the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission in Traverse City, Michigan, will explain how science and engineering are being applied to achieve selective fish passage and control sea lamprey on the Boardman River near Traverse City.
This is part of an effort to reconnect key tributaries to the lake proper across the Great Lakes and to prevent the range expansion of invasive species. The in-person lecture will be at the Collins Learning Center, 2041 Michigan St., Sturgeon Bay, or available on-line through the Door County Library System.
At this point, we have not seen lamprey spawning in Big Creek, but any day now, Big Creek and other Door County tributaries will experience the annual sucker run. For generations, folks have flocked to Crossroads to observe this amazing fish migration.
Dr. Karen Murchie, the Director of Freshwater Research at the Shedd Aquarium, is one of those people. Big Creek is one of the Door County tributaries from which volunteer community scientists are collecting data pertaining to these underappreciated fish, which “contribute substantially to food webs across the Great Lakes.”
So, there indeed is something fishy at Crossroads—Fish Tale Lectures, Pike and Sucker research, and coming very, very soon — the Annual Sucker Run. And when all this is done, the new Pike Passage Bridge will be installed! Watch for that in June.