Stream project offers many benefits

Anglers weren’t the only ones enjoying wading in trout streams on a warm, sunny Saturday last weekend, with a group of volunteers hitting two northern Marquette County streams with nets and buckets instead of fishing rods.

The dozen or so individuals were participating in the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve’s environmental monitoring efforts on the Yellow Dog and Salmon Trout rivers, both located near Big Bay.

First the group met at the Powell Township School for some classroom instruction to find out exactly what they were looking for.

The target was macroinvertebrae, which include a variety of species of fly larvae, nymphs, snails, crayfish, clams, and worms that live in the streams. Teams of three and four volunteers donned waders and did a “river dance” in the rivers to stir up the macroinvertebrae off the bottom.

These little critters were then netted and examined. By noting the volume and diversity of them, the YDWP is able to get a general understanding of the level of pollution in the rivers.

In addition to the macroinvertebrae, other river characteristics such as water color, substrate, morphology, in-stream cover, potential causes of erosion or environmental degradation upstream and any sheen or slime in the water – and whether its due to oil or naturally occurring bacteria – are noted.

Adding up all the aspects of the river that is examined helps the YDWP develop a quality score for the stream that indicates the general health of it.

The monitoring, which is being done in coordination with the Michigan Clean Water Corps, is done in the spring and fall each year so any patterns of change in stream quality can be tracked.

In addition to keeping an eye on the health of the streams in light of mining and other activities in the region, the monitoring program exposes a variety of people to the wonderful water resources of the Upper Peninsula.

Both the streams involved in this monitoring program are popular places to fish, as well, so the effort not only benefits environmental groups and the general public, but also those residents and visitors to the area who enjoy pursuing trout in their native streams.