Know Your Michigan Fish: Northern Pike (Esox lucius)

Michigan Northern Pike Esox lucius

Northern Pike (Esox lucius), photo by Isle Royale National Park

The Michigan DNR’s Northern Pike page has this to say about this apex predator of the Great Lakes and Michigan’s inland lakes:

As predators, northern pike can have significant impact on their prey species. As with muskies, pike lurk in the cover of vegetation in the lake’s clear, shallow, warm waters near shore, although they retreat somewhat deeper in midsummer. Pike consume large numbers of smaller fish – about 90 percent of their diet – but seem willing to supplement their diet with any living creature their huge jaws can surround, including frogs, crayfish, waterfowl, rodents, and other small mammals. Their preferred food size is approximately one third to one half the size of the pike itself.

Great Lakes pike spawn in the shallows in April or May, right after the ice leaves, and before muskies reproduce. As a result of their eating habits, young pike grow rapidly in both length and weight. Females become sexually mature at age three or four years, and males at two to three years. Beyond sexual maturity, pike continue to gain weight, although more slowly. Great Lakes pike have an average life span of 10 to 12 years.

Pike eggs and new hatchlings (which stay inactive, attached to vegetation for their first few days of life) fall prey in large numbers to larger pike, perch, minnows, waterfowl, water mammals, and even some insects. Larger pike have two primary enemies – lampreys, and man. Spawning adult northern pike, exposing themselves recklessly in the shallows, are vulnerable to bears, dogs, and other large carnivores.

Northern pike flesh excels in flavor, thus making them a doubly rewarding game fish. Since their skin has heavy pigmentation and an unappetizing mucous coating, most people skin them or scale them carefully.

This photo was one of Isle Royale National Park’s “Wildlife Wonders of the Week.” They noted that a five pound female pike will lay about 60,000 eggs. Two weeks later fertilized eggs hatch, hungry for microscopic morsels. Once to the fingerling stage, food scarcity may force them to eat their own siblings for nourishment.

View it bigger on Facebook and definitely follow their page for the latest from one of Michigan’s coolest parks!

More Michigan fish on Michigan in Pictures.

Port Crescent in Michigan’s Thumb

The Port Crescent Smokestack

The Port Crescent Smokestack, photo by Joel Dinda

One of the blogs I enjoy reading is ThumbWind, a blog about (you guessed it) Michigan’s Thumb. In A Ghost Town in the Thumb they tell the story of the town of Port Crescent that was within what is now Port Crescent State Park:

Walter Hume established a trading post and hotel near the mouth of the Pinnebog River in 1844. From these humble beginnings the area took the name of Pinnebog, taking its name from the river of which it was located. However, a post office established some five miles upstream also took its name from the river. To avoid confusion the town changed its name to Port Crescent for the crescent-shaped harbor along which it was built.

Port Crescent had two steam-powered sawmills, two salt plants, a cooperage whichPort Cresent manufactured barrels for shipping fish and salt, a gristmill, a wagon factory, a boot and shoe factory, a pump factory, a brewery, several stores, two hotels, two blacksmith shops, a post office, a depot and telegraph office, and a roller rink. Pinnebog employed hundreds of area residents. Others worked at blockhouses where they extracted brine from evaporated water to produce salt. At one time a this 17 block village boasted of a population of more than 500.

Read on for more and click for more about Port Crescent State Park.

View Joel’s photo background big and see more in his Port Crescent Vacation slideshow.

Drifting

Drifting

Drifting, photo by Aime Lucas

Amie took this last year in late May, and I’m posting this to let Mother Nature know that “35 degrees in May” is not what we’re looking for out of the month of May!

View Aime’s photo background bigilicious, see more in her Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore slideshow, and be sure to follow Aime Lucas Photography on Facebook.

More beach photos and lots more summery wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures!

Major Explorer on Empire Bluffs

Major at Empire Bluff

Major Explores Empire Bluff, photo by Mark Miller

Over on Leelanau.com I shared upcoming meetings for folks interested in becoming “Bark Rangers” in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Major looked so awesome that I had to share him with all of you too!

Bark Ranger volunteers and their canine companions will serve as ambassadors on National Lakeshore beaches to provide visitors information about the park, highlight pet policies, and pet safety. They will also help to protect the National Lakeshore’s nesting shorebirds.

Dogs can’t come to the meeting, but Bark Rangers will receive training and Bark Ranger gear for their dog if they are volunteering with a dog. You don’t have to own a dog to become a Bark Ranger, and there’s two orientation sessions. The first meeting on Saturday, May 21 at 1 PM and the second on Tuesday, May 24th at 7 PM, and there’s also an option if you’re interested and can’t make it.

Mark is a longtime contributor to Michigan in Pictures. You can view this photo bigger and if you have any doubt that Major has more fun than you, one look at Mark’s slideshow of Major should be enough for your surrender.

More dogs on Michigan in Pictures.

PS: I promise to share some dog-friendly Michigan stuff folks – I know some of you have been asking for it!!

PPS: More about the Empire Bluff Trail from the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Skyline Trail at Ludington State Park

Ludington State Park Skyline Trail

Ludington St. PK, Skyline Trail 2, photo by Jerry Herrendeen

Visit Ludington’s page on Ludington State Park’s trails says:

The Skyline Trail runs along a tall sand dune ridge, on the south side of the river between the footbridge and Hamlin Dam. The trail begins at the west end of the parking lot and exits onto the Sable River Trail. This trail is completely elevated, made even higher by an extensive wooden boardwalk system. Several vistas let you look out over miles of sand dunes and Lake Michigan. On a clear day, you can see 20 miles to the Silver Lake State Park Sand Dunes. On the back side is an area where you can leave the boardwalk and run up and down the steep slope of this sand dune.

Read on for more about other trails at the park and click for the official Ludington State Park page.

View Jerry’s photo background big and see lots more in his Moods of Lake Michigan slideshow.

More Ludington and more spring wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures.

Purple Rain: Colors of the Northern Lights

Purple Aurora

Isle Royale Aurora, photo by Ross Ellet

Music is music, ultimately. If it makes you feel good, cool.
~Prince

Prince was a musician who had a huge effect on my life. I went to school near Minneapolis when he was transforming music through his own work and what he did with a host of artists. I’m very sad at his passing. Down at the bottom I have one of my favorite clips of Prince.

I’ve been lucky enough to see the northern lights dozens of times but have probably only seen purple auroras three or four times. Causes of Color explains the colors of the northern lights:

The sun radiates all visible colors, which is why sunlight appears white. The spectrum of visible light associated with the aurora is much more restricted. The aurora is caused by charged particles in the solar wind colliding with atmospheric atoms and ions. The collisions cause the electrons of the atmospheric atoms to become excited. As the electrons return to their original energy levels, these atoms emit visible light of distinct wavelengths, to create the colors of the display we see.

The color of the aurora depends on the wavelength of the light emitted. This is determined by the specific atmospheric gas and its electrical state, and the energy of the particle that hits the atmospheric gas. The atmosphere consists mainly of nitrogen and oxygen, which emit the characteristic colors of their respective line spectra. Atomic oxygen is responsible for the two main colors of green (wavelength of 557.7 nm) and red (630.0 nm). Nitrogen causes blue and deep red hues.

Most of the auroral features are greenish-yellow, but sometimes the tall rays will turn red at their tops and along their lower edges. On rare occasions, sunlight will hit the top part of the auroral rays to create a faint blue color. On very rare occasions (once every 10 years or so) the aurora can be a deep blood red color from top to bottom. Pink hues may also be seen in the lower area of the aurora. In addition to producing light, the energetic auroral collisions transmit heat. The heat is dissipated by infrared radiation, or transported away by strong winds in the upper atmosphere.

Read on for more and also check out more about the Northern Lights on Michigan in Pictures.

Ross took this on August 10th last summer. He says “The Northern Lights over Moskey Basin in Isle Royale National Park. This is the first time in my life I have seen a bright purple aurora develop.

View his photo background bigilicious and see more in his Aurora slideshow.

Making Decisions about Wolves on Isle Royale

 

3 Isle Royale wolves 2015

Three Wolves, photo by Vucetich & Peterson

With only a handful of wolves left in Isle Royale National Park, the National Park Service is currently taking public comment on the management of wolves at Isle Royale. They write:

The NPS began this planning process by considering a broad range of potential management actions as part of determining how to manage the moose and wolf populations for at least the next 20 years. However, based on the public comments we received and additional internal deliberations, the NPS has determined that it will revise and narrow the scope of this EIS to focus on the question of whether to bring wolves to Isle Royale National Park in the near term, and if so, how to do so.

Although wolves have not always been part of the Isle Royale ecosystem, they have been present for more than 65 years, and have played a key role in the ecosystem, affecting the moose population and other species during that time. The average wolf population on the island over the past 65 years has been about 22, but there have been as many as 50 wolves on the island and as few as three. Over the past five years the population has declined steeply, which has given rise to the need to determine whether the NPS should bring additional wolves to the island. There were three wolves documented on the island as of March 2015 and only two wolves have been confirmed as of February 2016. At this time, natural recovery of the population is unlikely.

The potential absence of wolves raises concerns about possible effects to Isle Royale’s current ecosystem, including effects to both the moose population and Isle Royale’s forest/vegetation communities. The revised purpose of the plan, therefore, is to determine whether and how to bring wolves to Isle Royale National Park to function as the apex predator in the near term within a changing and dynamic island ecosystem.

The photo above from the 2014-2015 Annual Report from the Vucetich & Peterson Ecological Studies of Wolves on Isle Royale shows three wolves observed at winter study 2015. More on their website at isleroyalewolf.org and definitely follow Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale on Facebook for updates!

More wolves on Michigan in Pictures.