Stream Restoration Projects
An ambitious project began in 2020 to protect the “Cove” in the flies-only section of the Pere Marquette River. This included participating in Trout Unlimited’s Embrace-a-Stream program where the chapter got more than $15,000 in donations, plus additional funds from trout Unlimited and Orvis.
The Cove lies just upstream from the 4th Claybank where the bank forms a ¼ mile peninsula. Over the last 15 years, the “Cove” has deteriorated and eroded approximately 25′- 40′. Sand has washed out, silted over, and reduced the productive spawning area directly downstream of the eroding bank by over 50%.
The goal is to stabilize the existing bank, limit silting over of spawning gravel, and to let the river naturally reestablish the spawning habitat. Bank stabilization will limit future erosion and slow the process of an “oxbow” effect, or the river cutting a new path through the peninsula and losing ¼ mile of prime river between the Cove and Alligator Alley. The bank stabilization is critical for both purposes.
In 2019, PMTU also partnered with the Conservation Resource Alliance on two stream restoration projects planned and approved for 2020. The CRA is staffed with wildlife biologists, fisheries biologists, engineers, and field technicians, who work with landowners to plan, locate funding options, cut through red tape, and implement programs to enhance the habitat value and beauty of the region. The CRA has been great to the PM, funding over a million dollars of habitat improvements in the last couple of years. More detail and complete improvement maps for both the Baldwin River and the PM watersheds is available.
These stream improvement projects strategically and professionally place large woody debris, fish-cover habitat, terracing, and native plantings to restore and protect the sites from further bank erosion, which deposits unwanted sediment loads into the river that cover spawning gravel. These restoration projects are crucial to the protection of the PM and her trout if we expect future generations to experience the majesty we now enjoy.
Railroad Bank Threat
PMTU is also working in conjunction with the PM Watershed Council and other agencies to address erosion at a site where the railroad runs directly along a high- eroding streambank in the upper stretch of the flies-only section. The Pere Marquette Railroad was originally built to carry logs that were too heavy to float on the river to the Ludington mills. Today this railroad carries daily loads of environmentally toxic cargo. Left alone to degrade further, this site puts the entire river, trout, all aquatic life, the forest, the forest animals, as well as people, in danger should the erosion ultimately cause the tracks to fail and railcars and dangerous cargo are deposited into the river. This is a very important, complex, and costly project that PMTU and the other agencies are working to address.
This October PMTU is continuing with the second annual PM redd survey. Nearly 20 PMTU members, anglers, and guides have committed to this project for a minimum of three years. More involvement is always welcome, so anyone interested can participate. The redd survey is organized, supported, and conducted in conjunction with TU National. TU’s Eastern Angler Science Coordinator Jacob Lemon is working with PMTU to ensure success. Volunteers are trained in identifying brown trout redds and trained to use a GPS smartphone application to store data and pictures of the redd sites. Volunteers are assigned a stretch of river and make three passes during October to document data and upload photos to the app. The data is aggregated and mapped, with last year being the baseline.
Water Monitoring Stations
In September 2019, PMTU volunteers worked with TU National to install two water monitoring stations that collect real-time water conditions and temperature data on the PM, which is shared on pmtu.org. The stations are located near the M-37 bridge (start of the flies-only section) and near Bowman Bridge. Additional monitoring locations are being considered to provide additional coverage.
These monitors will help to protect trout in summer when temperatures are too warm and fishing for trout turns lethal by stressing fish beyond the point they can recover. For example, brook trout begin to stress at 65 degrees. When water temperatures hit 68 degrees both rainbow and brown trout will begin to get stressed and water temperature over 70 degrees could be lethal. The optimal feeding and movement water temperatures for rainbow and brown trout are 44 to 67 degrees. PMTU is working with local shops, outfitters, and other conservation groups to share its link to their websites and Facebook pages. By promoting awareness, the fishing public and fishing guides can seek out sections of cooler water or opt for warm-water species at times when temperatures are too warm.
PMTU is again sponsoring Jac Ford’s Warrior Weekend. The date is to be determined. Jac continues his legacy of stewardship, volunteerism, and constant support for our men and women in uniform. Each year, Jac hosts this event, which honors the service and sacrifice that these special people and their families have made to protect and serve our country. Honorees and guests gather for a relaxing weekend of festivities that include lodging, a thank-you dinner, great stories, and of course, a guided fly-fishing trip on the PM. PMTU wishes to thank Jac, as well as the guides and others, who come together to donate their time and resources to give back to those who serve.
First Brown Banquet — plan to resume when COVID restrictions are lifted
Each spring, the first weekend in May brings the PMTU 1st Brown Banquet, where anyone can gather in Baldwin for a great event to support the PM, learn about fly fishing and the special resource we have, and meet some of the best fly anglers anywhere. There is always great food, entertainment, a fantastic set of live and online auction items, along with the ever-popular StealthCraftBoats.com boat raffle.
Youth Camp — plan to resume when COVID restrictions are lifted
In June 2019, PMTU sponsored two youth campers to attend the Michigan TU Youth Camp on Higgins Lake in Roscommon sponsored by the Kalamazoo Valley Chapter. This four-day camp is designed to educate 13-16-year-old boys and girls, who will become our next generation of conservation leaders, about the importance of protecting our coldwater resources. Campers learn how land use affects the health of our streams, our trout, and ourselves. They learn stream restoration, collect and learn to identify macro-invertebrates important to trout, and learn what bugs can tell us about water quality and stream habitat. Students discover what trout need to survive, where they hide, and, with help from some of Michigan’s leading conservationists and anglers, how to catch them. In 2020, PMTU will again be sponsoring this camp so please contact PMTU if you know of a youth who would be interested.