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Michigan Research Vessels Survey Great Lakes Fisheries
The Department of Natural Resources today announced all four of its research vessels are back on the water, conducting annual surveys of Great Lakes fish populations. The DNR's vessels are critical in the department's mission to conserve, protect and manage the Great Lakes for the use and enjoyment of current and future generations. The surveys are designed to estimate relative abundance, biomass, age and growth, health, diet, survival rates, natural reproduction and movements of fish in the Great Lakes.

Vessels have home ports at Great Lakes stations in Marquette, Alpena, Charlevoix and Harrison Township, but work throughout the lakes on a variety of lake-specific efforts. They operate from the time ice has cleared the lakes well into November. The DNR has had research vessels on the Great Lakes since the 1960s.

On Lake Superior, the R/V Lake Char (the DNR's newest vessel, launched in 2007) is employed primarily to assess lake trout populations and provides information used to generate annual lake trout harvest quotas, as well as to provide information on sea lamprey wounding.

Lake Huron surveys, conducted from the R/V Chinook (in operation since 1947 and a research vessel since 1968), include specific assessments of lake trout and walleye, as well as broader fisheries assessments in Saginaw Bay and the St. Mary's River to evaluate fish community changes in these valuable Great Lakes systems. The R/V Chinook is often paired with the R/V Channel Cat (based out of the DNR's Lake St. Clair Fisheries Research Station since 1968) for Saginaw Bay surveys. The R/V Channel Cat is also employed in surveys of Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie fish populations, focusing on walleye, yellow perch and lake sturgeon.

On Lake Michigan, the S/V Steelhead (also in operation since 1968) is used in a variety of fisheries assessment operations - including spring evaluations of adult yellow perch, whitefish, lake trout and Chinook salmon populations. Later in summer, the S/V Steelhead teams up with vessels from the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to evaluate lakewide forage fish abundance.

"The DNR is responsible for management of more abundant and diverse fishery resources than any other natural resource agency in the Great Lakes region, and the survey vessels are critical to this effort," said Jim Dexter, chief of Fisheries.

Throughout the summer, DNR vessels are visible residents of Great Lakes ports; the public is encouraged to visit the vessels and talk with the crews about fisheries assessment operations. To learn more about fishing in Michigan, please visit Additional information about science vessel operations throughout the Great Lakes can be found at the Great Lakes Association of Science Ship web site,

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to

Media Contact

Dave Clapp, 231-547-2914 or Sarah Lapshan, 517-241-1736