This is the 6th year of trout habitat restoration projects planned and managed by Anglers of the Au Sable. The Au Sable North Branch Area Foundation has provided both financing and man-power to this project. Work during 2018 added approximately 120 structures to the Au Sable North Branch, below Lovells Bridge from the Burchi property just above Duncansons’, down to Dr. Gary Meade’s cottage.
The six types of structures used are: Paralogs, bank log structures, triangular structures, drift jams at heads of islands and v structures. Each structure is placed in a predetermined and approved location with a specific purpose. A detailed map of planned structures and locations must be approved by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources - Fisheries Div. and permits are required from Department of Environmental Quality and the MDNR Natural Rivers Dept.
The purpose of this restoration work is to provide cover for spawning trout and move sand off precious gravel to provide both spawning habitat and insect production. Do these restoration efforts work?
Anglers points to two very successful projects: 1. In the upper Au Sable, Pollock Bridge area above Grayling, a 2014 project has delivered an impressive 56% increase in fish production and an even more astounding 118% in biomass (meaning more large fish). These results were based on fish stockings that were done prior to and after project completion. 2. The West Branch of Big Creek had been severely degraded by beaver populations over the past 25 years. The WBBC project was completed in 2015 after beaver families were eliminated from the targeted watershed. Our ASNBAF contributed $5,000 to Mason Griffith and Anglers to help fund this project. Results: Fish shocking this past summer showed a +50% increase in fish population in just 3 years. These results are certainly impressive. But, what about the North Branch where we have done much work?
The severe fish population reduction in North Branch, noted this spring by fishing guides and local fishermen, remains a mystery to the MDNR and DEQ. High water, anchor ice, chemicals, a spill incident and other causes are being investigated. We were seeing progress in the North Branch in reaches where restoration work was completed and we expect more improvement once the mystery decline is identified and addressed. A significant increase in redd counts last fall was a good sign. But, the population drop this year has everyone baffled. It is hoped that we will identify the cause and be able to rectify the problem.
In 2019, the Anglers plan to revisit all the North Branch projects done since 2012 and inspect, repair and assess the effectiveness of the structures type and location. Further work is planned for the West Branch of Big Creek. Tag alder has grown over the stream for a long stretch below CO612. It needs to be cut back and brush bundles anchored in the stream to trap sand and keep it from further degradation of this cold water stream. Mapping and a plan is being developed and permits will be sought for the 2019 work.
We will keep you advised of progress regarding restoration in the North Branch watershed.