New Michigan Arctic Grayling Initiative

New Arctic Grayling initiative could bring historical species back to Michigan’s waters

Two Arctic Grayling swimming - this could be a sight returning to Michigan if a new collaboration works as planned.

Two Arctic Grayling swimming – this could be a sight returning to Michigan if a new collaboration works as planned.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, has announced a proposed initiative that aims to bring back an extirpated species to the state – Arctic grayling.

The proposed initiative, announced at today’s Natural Resources Commission meeting in Gaylord, will seek to establish self-sustaining populations of Arctic grayling throughout its historical range. The initiative is a proposed objective in the DNR’s 2017 Inland Trout Management Plan, which currently is being drafted.

The Arctic grayling is a native and iconic fish species in Michigan. Slate blue in color, they have a sail-like dorsal fin and were virtually the only native stream salmonid in the Lower Peninsula. In the lower 48 states they are native only to Michigan and Montana, further cementing their legendary status.

Michigan’s native grayling population died off nearly a century ago due to statewide logging efforts of the 1800s, over-fishing and general habitat destruction.

Although gone for an extensive period of time, reintroduction efforts have occurred with the most recent one coming 30 years ago. While unsuccessful at that time, lessons were learned and significant strides have been made to establish a better strategy to move this initiative forward.

“For this Arctic grayling initiative to work, we will seek to rely heavily on partnerships and collaboration from across the state,” said DNR Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter. “Over the next several years we will be taking methodical steps to move toward reintroduction of this historically and culturally significant species.”

These steps will include identifying interest and abilities of the partners, collecting baseline data, initiating the building of broodstock, and stocking efforts. The Manistee River watershed, once known as a premier grayling river, will be the first targeted location for reintroduction.

The DNR will work closely with partners as the proposed Arctic grayling initiative moves forward. The Little River Band, located in Manistee County, has for several years been engaged in extensive research for potential grayling reintroduction.

“This is going to be ‘Michigan’s Arctic Grayling Initiative,'” said Dexter. “Collaboration and partnerships will be crucial to its success.”

This effort also will lean heavily on recent scientific research in Michigan, as well as the successes Montana has achieved in re-establishing stable Arctic grayling populations.

For more information on the history of Arctic grayling in Michigan, visit Michigan Grayling Only a Memory.

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