Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Voices from the Past: The Michigan Grayling (1909)

I was having a discussion with a Cleveland collector today when the subject turned to the Blue Pike, the legendary Lake Erie fish that went extinct in the 1950s. The subject turned to the Michigan Grayling and whether deforestation impacted the decline in this once great fish. It reminded me of an article I had transcribed some time before from the 1909 Field & Stream magazine (for earlier articles on the Michigan Grayling Click Here and Click Here). Many people felt that by the turn of the century, the Grayling was still common in Michigan waters. This article seeks to prove this a fallacy. H.H. Ink rebukes Louis Rhead. It's as good an article on the rapidly declining state of the grayling as I've found.

MICHIGAN GRAYLING In one of his articles last summer Louis Rhead says that grayling are plentiful in the Au Sable, Manistee and other large Michigan streams, and I presume he will be glad to have me correct any wrong impression given. Last season I was trout fishing a number of times on the North Branch of the Au Sable, and became acquainted with quite a few local and non-resident fishermen who knew the fly fishing waters of lower Michigan. I talked with them particularly regarding grayling fishing, and their accounts seemed all to agree—to the effect that grayling in the Au Sable are extinct. It has been several years since the last one was caught in that stream, and it is a rare occurrence for a grayling to be caught in the Manistee, at least in the upper portion where they used to be numerous. It would seem there are still a few grayling caught in the Black, Pigeon and Sturgeon Rivers, but if my information is correct, they are far from being numerous.

I had quite a talk with Mr. Douglass of Lovells, on the north branch of the Au Sable, who is a fly-fisherman and an old resident. He told me that fifteen to eighteen years ago there were even more grayling in the Au Sable than there are now trout, and I can affirm to the fact that the north branch is literally alive with the "speckled beauties," with many rainbows and a scattering few brown trout. Mr. Douglass says that it is more than three years since he has even heard of a grayling being caught in that stream. It is generally believed that the "logging" of this river caused the disappearance of the grayling, but he expressed the positive belief that the introduction of trout some fifteen years ago was even more the cause of their extinction than all the logging that was ever done on the stream, and he seemed to base the belief on wide personal experience and observation. If Mr. Douglass' ideas in this particular are not correct, and if grayling can be propagated successfully in the same waters with trout, the North Branch of the Au Sable might well be again stocked with grayling, as it is surely one stream among a thousand in every way. It is exclusively springfed with an extremely steady volume of swiftly running water, always clear. It has a bed of sand and small and moderate-sized gravel, with unlimited fish food, and is a stream which is just right for wading with hip-boots. The trout are ever on the rise in numbers to more than satisfy any reasonable sportsman.

On my last trip to this river in August, I became acquainted with a Mr. Dudd, superintendent of a large saw-mill at Johannesburg, Mich., meeting him on the stream. He has fished those waters for many years and was well acquainted with conditions during the active logging period. He seemed to think that the logging had a great deal to do with the disappearance of the grayling, and especially so from the fact that jams frequently occurred in the numerous bends of the stream, and dynamite was often used to start the logs moving, with the result that thousands of fish in the pool where the jam occurred were killed. I take it for granted that the running of the logs was carried on during the spawning season. Regarding the matter of grayling being very scarce in Michigan, Mr. Dudd spoke with special interest of the fact that last July he had located and caught over a dozen grayling in a pool in the Black River. He said this was a great surprise to him, as it is a very unusual occurrence in recent years.

About a year ago the Au Sable Trout and Game Club, of which I am a member, was formed. Within its property on the North Branch, situated just below Dam 4, is what is probably a mile of the best water on the whole stream. This club has a membership limited to twenty-five, and is in a flourishing condition, its members being practically all active. A new bungalow is being built on the property, which will give added accommodations during the coming season.

Canton, Ohio. H. H. Ink.

-- Dr. Todd

No comments: