Dick Swan being an advocate for MI fishermen
Once upon a time there was a river rat who, because of having to work during the week,
could only fish spring steelhead on week ends; therefore, in order to enjoy the most fishing action
in two days, he sought out barrier dams, where steelhead stock-piled. These Lake Superior fish
were the only wild stock surviving the alewife invasion taking place in our lower lakes, where
Canada’s rivers (Pancake, Speckled Trout Creek, etc.) were targeted, when crossing the
Big Mac Bridge cost more than 400-450 miles for gas....when the first planted returns of Lake Michigan
fish “hit the walls,” on our Betsie, Elk, etc...when he quickly learned there were many other
Steelheaders like him who also stock-piled at these dam-sites .....where life-long friendships
For years, he never missed a week end, which included holidays and each day during school
spring-breaks. This annual week-end event went to one such extreme where he was later
threatened with a divorce, but fortunately survived, because his four kids were getting old enough
to take along. Those early years, obviously, became on-the-job-training, where
a growing understanding of river steelhead was quickly complimented with improved tackle and those who
were “spectating,” rather than “hooking” could observe/adjust to those terminal rigs served by
those getting the job done.
In turn, those early years also became “OJT” for Michigan fish biologists, where they quickly
realized the popularity of steelhead was so overwhelming, they jumped on-board and
experimenting with these fish. They experimented with greater numbers of steelhead plants in
certain rivers, then increased the number of rivers to be planted.
However, while they
experimented with hatchery steelhead, they never lost sight of our wild strains in various rivers,
particularly in the colder waters of the Little Manistee River, when it also featured a wild strain of
winter” steelhead. From a scientific standpoint, it is unfortunate this winter strain rarely hit the
papers; however, the fact the river was closed to fishing in December, this strain didn’t seem to be
a great contributor to our river catch. Interesting!
One example of Fisheries’ early (“shotgun”)
experimenting involved a plant of some 800,000
mixed-juvenile steelhead (fall fingerlings, etc.) in the Rogue River, where survivors returned by
the hundreds, for two consecutive springs. With the Childsdale Dam still in tact, these
overwhelming numbers of steelhead turned week end mobs into week day crowds, with hundreds
of anglers dragging five steelhead on stringers....day after day after day! More fitting, in-between
coffee breaks, DNR director Dr. Tanner, also got in his licks with this phenomenal run of Rogue
Another example of their experimenting came when we received Skamania eggs from Indiana.
While the gesture was great, the catch results were disastrous, when from a total of 325,000
yearlings, only 10,000 were planted in each selected river (upper and lower peninsula) instead of
more concentrated plants going into our same, more accessible, spring steelhead rivers, including
the PM (and its wild strain).
Another experiment involved Atlantic salmon, when we drove a “tanker” to Quebec and
returned with 20,000 yearlings, losing only one fish! Fisheries then stocked 10,000 in the Boyne
and 10,000 in the Big AuSable. Before these Boyne River fish faded from the scene, two of them
took turns (caught a few days apart, both out of Ludington) becoming our state record.
When this booming era of our steelhead program was settling in, enter the “new
guard,” whose “science” continues to fracture/nullify those old
programs, came in with a big bang! For instance:
It hatched one bio (who headed-up our steelhead program), who instantly targeted our
summer Skamania program...when he relied heavily on one Washington bio’s winter/summer
steelhead studies.....then applied it to our spring steelhead fishery.....where Skamania will interbreed,
“water-down,” the gene pool of our wild winter stocks!
Ironically, this study came from the birth-site of this strain, developed in 1956, at
Washington’s “Skamania Hatchery”....located on the Washougal River....and understand, despite
having wild strains of steelhead in each of their rivers, they feature a hatchery sitting at the top-end of each.
When I called their manager, Gary Vaughn, he boasted a wild strain of winter steelhead which
numbered a “constant,” 200 wild fish (when I called two years later, he declared 200 wild fish).
However, while he also shared a concern for possible interbreeding, he continued to plant
100,000 Skamania each year! His priority remained: Furnishing a viable fishery for his
The same was true when I called Vince Jansen, manager of their Cowlitz River’s “Trout
Hatchery,” where he identified a new wild strain, “spring” steelhead. This, along with his wild
winter fish... along with stocked Skamania! The other hatchery (“Salmon Hatchery”) sits farther
up-stream, at the “Barrier Dam.” Is it any wonder their Cowlitz River, with its annual plant of 2
million steelhead, plus Skamania, plus their wild strains, makes it a true, blue-ribbon year-around
fishery! It was this persistent flow of Washington’s steelhead
practices which sunk our bio’s ship.
So, what’s happened/happening with our Lansing’s new “guard?”
Lansing spawned a computer whizz, whose “model” predicted a
forage shortage, which they
sold to other three Lake Michigan states, which cut chinook plants 27%, while Lansing’s whizz
suddenly, became “history,” as in.....“what ever happened to...?”
Just recently, (without this whizz) Lansing predicted a forage-shortage, which, once again,
they sold to other three Lake Michigan states, which cuts chinook
plants an additional 25% this year! Lansing pulled this off...before.....they received the Fed’s forage base
....when we were told they would wait until...! And it doesn’t stop here.
Three years ago (August) I exploded when I found that Rozich and Dextor Hi-jacked over
500,000 coho from our just renovated Platte River Hatchery and trucked them down to the Paw
Paw River. One-half million coho moved out of a hatchery with absolutely no response from
Lansing, after I went “public” with it! No explanation....no heads rolled!
Then....this same renovated coho hatchery, later, experienced a power outage!
I attended the Lansing
meeting when hatchery manager, Gary Whalen, gave us a blow-blow
presentation of his outage-event.....with no suggested numbers of coho lost offered....with no “loss”
question asked by fellow bios. I sat there in wonderment! Later, I attended a meeting at the
hatchery, when after our tour and regardless of the agenda, only lake trout were discussed,
without one Fed present.
While you may disagree with my interpretation of this hatchery meeting and since I can’t prove
the outage was “illegit” plus heads didn’t roll from those transferred coho.....be assured, you will
kiss our coho bye-bye!
And now....it is no secret our brown trout fishery is also going down the toilet....after
completing a $35 million hatchery renovation program......when another of
Lansing’s best kept
secrets involves a “scientist” who misinterpreted three strains of bacteria infecting our
brown trout! My pet gripe is the fact our Lansing leadership demonstrates they know nothing about the
one strain they inherited, for instance:
Remember when BKD created a ban on all eggs received from Washington and Alaska,
because their hatcheries were quarantined? This evolved when I was already into my winter
sport show tour, while at my Syracuse show, I met Les Wedge, NY’s chief cold water bio (yes,
the Salmon River included) when he told they had just received Seeforellen
eggs, a brown trout strain coming from a large Austria lake, where these 30-40 pound monsters abound!
As I picked myself off the floor, I reminded him of this ban on all imported
eggs, which he
cleverly avoided, which I definitely wouldn’t think of pursuing. This point of fact boils down to:
Why is Lansing wasting a gene pool of lake browns in our inland streams, when we have our own
traditional strains of inland stream browns....when we could add those inland stream plants to our
Lake Michigan/Huron Seeforellen numbers? Hello, Lansing!
The shame of this Lansing arrogance thing is the fact it has been mimicked in their Cadillac
office.. .where my nemesis....(“Ti’ Dupa”) Tom Rozich....burrows! My final example:
Three years ago I met with Dexter, regarding Tom’s contemptuous “dereliction of duty” to us,
who are his Big Manistee....Muskegon River constituents, when our conversation had Jim
reaching for a very “humungus” size book. He explained it holds records of bio’s annual (steelhead)
plants, that there are three levels, with Level 3 as “top”....that it takes three years to reach Level 3,
which, when reaching Level 3, the bio can increase plant 20% per year, if steelhead are available.
As Jim struggled, while
leafing through this “Fatlas,” he would occasionally stop to show me
who it is and their level (which were all 3)....until he reached Rozich....when I noticed Jim’s
sudden hesitation, before announcing. ....Level TWO!
Yes sir, ever since Leo retired (10 years?), this infamous “steward” of Michigan’s only two
blue-ribbon steelhead rivers has deliberately been feeding us steady diet of 50,000 plants in both
rivers! And don’t tell me his “superiors” didn’t know of this annual rip-off Great public service!
Great “pulbic servants!”
In contrast, when Dave Borgeson Jr. took over the Big AuSable River area waters, he
inherited an annual plant of 100,000 steelhead, which is now 180,000 and the “wee-private
waters” of the Rifle River has gone from 50,000 (sound familiar) to 62,000! This Big AuSable
plant has become the largest single steelhead plant, because Dave (others) is
doing his best to meet the demands of his area Steelheaders!
Along with this, as our annual increased steelhead plants occurred, during our Clare Fisheries
meeting I was told, “There is no room in our hatcheries for one more steelhead to be raised”... as
I vigorously pounded my finger on the table while debunking this ridiculous statement..
was out-numbered by bios supporting this Lansing kid’s serious.....erroneous proclamation! While
blatantly “Wrong,” Lansing continues to support its own!
How wrong are they?
My meeting with Dexter moved Rozich to Level 3.. .with our first steelhead plant INCREASE
(Big M-Muskegon) coming THIS SPRING (‘06)!!!!!
That’s how “thick”
these guys are....lying through their teeth....with such a large audience at
this Clare meeting.....their CREDIBILITY = ZERO. Heads MUST roll!
Along with Lansing’s many other “internal shortages,” you may have already located (on
computer) one of their latest “shot-in-the-foot” performances. It’s titled (here we go...again):
“Why Can’t More
Yearling Salmon and Trout be Reared?”
It is a four page presentation; however, it’s the final paragraph I will quote, in fragmented
sentences, one-at-a-time, responding to each:
“The Department’s fisheries managers have the utmost concern for maintaining viable sport
fisheries but are limited in the tools that can be used.”
Resp: “limited in the tools”?....when you recently enjoyed a $35/million hatchery renovation...
when “limited in tools” actually refers to our Lansing Fisheries autocrats!
“Hatchery systems have clear limitations on the number and type of fish that can be
Resp: “limitations on the number and type fish”?.....when you can plant those surplus, mixed
juvenile fingerlings, etc. (as our former Rogue River plant), or bury them (sounds familiar)....when
you recently enjoyed a $35 million hatchery renovation?
“limitations...” when LAST SPRING (‘05), Petosky’s, Bear Creek’s (Ml’s shortest rivulet, 800
yards, dam to Bay) plant of 15,000 steelhead was increased to 25,000, while the Big Manistee,
Muskegon have been getting only 50,000! That isn’t just “tartar” on their teeth!
“There are very limited abilities to change,” etc...
Resp: “.....very limited abilities to change”? Once again....with Fisheries’ recent $35/million
......protect and rehabilitation of aquatic habitat which is key to improving wild fish
Resp: ...You’re kidding...when Lansing was awarded $172 million (gathering “interest”) in
their lawsuit against Ludington’s Edison plant (which DESTROYED our most unique MAY...
guaranteed, chinook fishery.....trolling 30-40’ water feet of water), which is earmarked for such
remedies, when LANSING KNOWS we already have regional bios SUPERVISING, “more than
45 stream habit restoration organizations”...as reported in our March issue of one our states’
great conservation papers: Glenn Sheppard’s, “The North Woods Call!”
This web-site hatchery garbage is pure, Lansing Blasphemy! I rest my case!
As a former high school principal, I also managed a large staff of professionals, which
included “probationary” teachers (each requiring six evaluations per year), plus “tenured” teachers
(each requiring skills in handling their release without school being burdened with prolonged
With this: Please consider my following evaluation/recommendations:
To: DNR Director, Becky Humphries:
Your Fisheries Division is in dire need of new leadership and since you would not beI understand “transfers” are very common.......without fanfare.
setting a precedence in doing so.....please dismiss Fisheries Chief Kelly Smith!
I strongly urge you....rather than conform to our recent trend... elevating one of our “interbred”
UM/MSU bios.....please search for another Washington candidate,
another “Dr. Tody” (as in “Tanner & Tody”)!
Please transfer Tom Rozich!
case you didn't know, Dick Swan is the inventor of the famed "noodle
rod. " In use today by all of Great Lakes river and stream
fishermen. Dick has sat in on almost every Great Lakes councils and
DNR meetings for the past 3 decades. Also, he's extremely well known as a
outdoor writer, accomplished river guide, ground-breaking charter captain
(with light-line) and stand-up person that does not mince any
words!......Capt. John King