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Bigwater Fishing with Ross Robertson
Bigwater Fishing with Ross Robertson

Episode 35 · 2 months ago

Dr. Chris Vandergoot | Director, Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Chris Vandergoot is the director of the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System and associate professor at Michigan State University. Prior to his current position, Chris served as a research fishery biologist at the Lake Erie Biological Station, Great Lakes Science Center, US Geological Survey located in Sandusky, Ohio, supervisor of fish biology at the Sandusky Fisheries Research Station, and a fisheries biologist on Lake Erie with the Ohio Department of Natural Resource, Division of Wildlife. As a fisheries researcher and biologist, he is interested in understanding and quantifying the population dynamics of native Great Lakes fish populations, particularly Lake Erie percids. He primarily focuses on conducting field-based studies that describe the ecological and demographic processes of wild fish populations for stock assessment modeling purposes. Specific areas of interest include examining stock discreteness, rates of iteoparity (i.e., frequency of reproductive cycles), spawning site fidelity, spawning phenology, migratory behavior, and estimating mortality rates (i.e., fishing and natural). He has also conducted numerous studies evaluating the efficiency and performance of fishery-independent sampling gears and methodologies. Chris received his bachelor’s degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Statue University, his master’s degree from Tennessee Technological University and doctorate from Michigan State University

Welcome back to big water podcast.Here we are, producer. Dude, who do we have today? Whodid you line up for us? I don't line anyone up. You liningthem up, but it is I'm glad we're on the same page. ChrisVandergout, is what I know. Yeah, Chris Vandergood. So here's the deal. We've had Travis Hartman on here several times. I didn't even wantto have them on once, but we've had them on multiple time. Travisis good, Travis, but he's done really good, because I think thatthe honestly the thing is is, I mean he's had, you know,a lot of people listening to his deals. podcast numbers have been good. That'sone reason we have them on. And people want to know, simplyput like this, fish facts, like real numbers, not what some Guidel, this ginger, is going to tell you. Right. We want toknow some real, kind of hard facts, at least hard as we can get. I mean that's basically travis caves right. Yeah, Travis gave uslots of fun facts. Do you know? Did you did you know? That'swhat he did. He came up. He's like a game show host.Well, I here's here's the the word on the street. I dida little bigger I did a little little scrape them and I found the way. We don't have bottom of the barrel, we have cream on the top herewith Mr Vandercut. So we're going to bring him in and he's goingto have some fun facts for us and explain exactly what he does. Ithink you're going to be surprised, producer. Dude, you're going to be havingpressed that we dug this guy up because he's kind of like they hidehim away basically. You know, he looks ready. So let's go,Chris, thanks for taking some time here. We'll him to the big water podcast. Hey, thanks for having me on. It's a pleasure to beable to join and sure some of the stuff that we've been working on,not only here in Lake Erie but across the Great Lakes. So I'm goingto I'm just going to get you full disclos you're here. We're going tothrow Travis Hartman under the bus, the Fisheries Guy. Okay, for years, and we've talked about on the PODCAST, I would do seminars before or afterhim. You know, we'd have some of them or something, andI would always bust this child because he would go up there and he's gotall these pirate charts in these grafts and all the stuff and people I knowand I'd be like, Hey, thanks for warming a mob or hey,thanks for put them to sleep for me, you know like that. But whatwe found here on the podcast is, I mean all of Travis has somegreat information. Is that. You know, people really want to knowabout these Walleye facts, you know what I mean. Numbers are at leastthe best that we we could have, you know, and a lot ofthe stuff kind of correlates to what us as fisherman find and explain exactly whatyou do and, you know, give us a little overtake of what's goingon. Okay, so I moved here to northern Ohio back in two thousandand two. My first job was with was as a fisheries biologist with forthe division wildlife, working on Lake Erie. Travis and I work together actually forquite a few years. We would ras each other on a regular basis, especially when it got late at night. Try Travis got a little cranky,but you know, that's that's that's all good. So I worked thereas a fisheries biologist were about fourteen or fifteen years transitioned over to the UnitedStates Geological Survey as a research biologist for two years and then May of twothousand and nineteen I took my current position as the director of the Great LakesAcoustic Telemetry Observation System. And so technically I'm an employee of Michigan State University, but a lot of the funding for the telemetry system that were that Ioversee comes to the Great Lakes. For Street Commission that that's a mouthful,but in simple terms, basically the radio trackers and that that whole deal.Well, let me write. Let me simplify a little bit more. It'sactually not radio trackers. These are acoustic transmitters. So radio signals go throughthe water up into the air. Acoustic signals are strictly underwater. Just likeif you took your transducer out of your out of the water on your boat, it really wouldn't work. If you take these transmitters out of water,the sound has to be travel through water. So these are actually acoustic transmitters,not radio transmitters. I'm sure this won't be the first time that I'mscolded with inaccurate verbiage. I'll travis told me I needed to make sure Idid that. So yeah, I'm sure. I'm sure, no doubt. Imean, as bad as he was, I'm in good information. It takesa lot. It takes a lot to get through the Ross's brain.So you'RE gonna have to speak very simply, simply, slow and go. Butany rate, so we're going to do this in the same type thing. You know that? That did you know thing? I mean, Ifeel like Chris. You know, you work for Michigan State. You dothis whole fisheries thing. I feel like you have a little game show hostingyou. Well, we can we can see. I don't know, Ifeel like you're a quiet killer, Chris. I feel like killer. You knowwhat I mean? I feel like you could bust some chops. Idon't know that I've ever been accused of being a quiet killer. Unfortunately,I don't fly under the radar very easily and, as Travis can attest to, I break a lot of things, particularly when we're out in the boatworking. So Oh that, no,...

...that's some that's a fun fact foranother podcast. Yeah, well, I'll tell you what. So, basically, for people I haven't listened to the other stuff, the acoustic I got, so I'm probably going to call radar just piss both you and producer dudeoff. But we've got little receivers spread out through the through the lake andyou're able to transmit information back and the thing that I've kind of learned hereand again clarify this for me right out of the gate. How far?What's the range? As far as not just we're, you know, alake eries basically covered, but you guys are sharing this information with is itlike lake here on or where else do we have this this system set uparound here, on the Great Lakes or elsewhere? So basically the system worksthroughout the entire group Lake, so from Lake Superior all the way to throughLake Ontario and now we're even moving out into the St Lawrence River. Sotheoretically, any fish that are tagged as part of the Glados network for theGreat Lake Scoustic Plum Tree observation system, if a fish were to swim anywherethrough there, we would pick it up if there is a receiver in thearea. So, just like you said, Lake Erie is very well covered,Lake Ontario is very well covered and we're starting to make a significant progresscovering Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Lake Superior is going to be another animaland of itself, just do its vast size. But to get back toyour question about how far you can hear these fish, it's all dependent upontwo things. First, the water conditions. Right, so in the western basinof Lake Erie, you know, the waters pretty turbid. You know, you can't see very far it. That means there's a lot of stuffin the water. Well, that reduces the distance a sound signal can travelunder water, you know. So if you're take that same transmitter and receiverand go into the eastern basin, where the water is very clear, you'dhave a much greater detection range. So the detection range of these transmitters isgoing to be dependent upon the water conditions as also, and also the tagsize. So the transmitters we generally use, or we've been using for like biggerfish, like while I lake, sturgeon and whatnot, they're about thesize of a double a battery and they can go anywhere from like half akilometer all the way up to a kilometer or a little bit more, youknow, in ideal conditions. Now now some of the smallest tags we useare about the size of a tick tack and researchers have been putting those intoround gobies and you know yellow perch. So there's a wide size ranger fishthat we can actually monitor their movements and the battery size dictates how far awaywe can hear those fish when they're swimming around by a receiver. So theone thing that I crack, I know you'll correct me when I'm wrong.If not, produce your total jump on me. But so this information,though, at this point in time is not immediate back. You guys haveto go back and basically download like you drive your boat over and it's almostlike a Wi fi bluetooth deal right clothes. We're getting close to that. Sogenerally the way it works is will go out and put a receiver downand then, depending upon how quickly we need that information, will go backand retrieve it. So when we're working in the rivers, like to watchwhile I movement. We probably put those receivers out the end of the yearand we'll pull them in May or June when we think the fish are donerunning out in the main lake. We generally tend those receivers on an annualbasis. So in May or June will go out there deploy a receiver.It will just sit there passively listening. It's just like the toll system onthe turnpike. Your that you're as a car, you're a tagged fish whenyou go through one of those pull bridges. That's like a receiver. So thosereceivers just sit there and constantly listen. So we'll go back to that receiver, will pull it up from the bottom or will send a code downin. The whole unit will actually float up to the surface, will downloadthe data, will replace the batteries and then, if we're going to putit back down, we'll put it right back down there and it will sitthere for for the next year. We're actually in the pride go ahead.So the ones on the lake, they do stay out twenty four seven.All right, Yep, okay, yeah, and so we're actually in the processof developing the technologies. They are we're just starting to apply to theGreat Lakes where we can actually send an unmanned vessel out there, basically whatwe call a a UV and aquatic underwater vehicle, and so we're aquatic unmannedvehicle and we can actually or drone and the pilot will actually just send thatdrone underwater on a predetermined path and we can communicate with the receiver. Thedata gets uploaded to, you know, the drone or the AUV, andthen we go on to the next one. So once we download all that data, we upload it to the cloud on a database. And so that'swhere a researcher for researchers conducting research, saying Green Bay and they tagged abunch of Walleye or our lake surgeon. If those fish swim over to LakeErie, they will know because they are...

...able to utilize all the receivers.They're not restricted to just using the receivers they deploy. If their fish swimsnear any of the receivers that are deployed, they get their information back. Roughly. What is the radius or a diet? You'll say a diameter.That what is the region, and how many do you have to have soyou don't overlap but you get everything. So here's the way you got tothink about it. There are some receivers that are deployed out there, soout and you know, out in the open water, we may have asingle receiver and that's just going to give us present or absence information. wasa fish within x amount of distance from this receiver? Are Not at thistime. The other way we can use these receivers actually as if we putthree or more in the close proximity to one another and then if a fishis in between those three receivers, were actually able to triangulate the position ofthat fish using complex math that I don't fully understand, but we kind ofsent it off to the company. They process the data and we're actually ableto get coordinates back of where that fish was at different kind spot. Sothat's what we're using, like on the reef. So when we want tounderstand the spawning ecology of Walleye or other fish species, we actually will deploya bunch of receivers on a reef and as the fish swims onto that reefand mills around, every time that they're that receiver, every time that transmitteremits a signal and it's detected by three or more receivers, we can actuallytriangulate with some error where that fish was, and so we've been able to watchfish, seat say, swim up onto crib reef there in the Westernbasin mill around for a long period of time and then exit the reef.And so in those stuff for those studies that we need that fine scale habitatuse will use a bunch of receivers to look at the fine scale movements.But when we're really looking at fish movements, say like through broad expanses through thecentral basin order in the open water areas, the presence absence information maybe sufficient. So there may only be one receiver in that area. Interesting. Had now also correct me get when I'm wrong. But we can tellhow deep that fish is based on the pressure. Is that or h yeah, so it depending upon so you have the baseline transmitter that just emits asignal at fixed intervals, while it's actually not at fixed inner rules, it'swithin some time range and then randomly it goes off, so that you knowyou don't have tags clotting with each other. But you can also get tags thateither record the temperature, they record the depth, they can actually recordhow fast the fish is accelerating at a given moment. And then more recently, within the last five years or so, they've been developing tags what we callpredation tags. So if you were to tag, say, a Gizzardchat or a yellow perch and that fish was eaten by another fish. Whenthat fish is eaten and the tag starts getting digested, it starts emitting adifferent code, so we have an idea that that fish was actually predated onYep. So we're starting to get a lot of different option. Yeah,so you can use so when we when we're looking at spawning behavior, wecan look at what temperature the fish are using to spawn, but we canalso look at the depth. Are they near the bottom, are they atthe surface and whatnot. So there are a lot of different, you know, sensors that we can add on to those transmitters to address different study objectives. So, besides Wal eyes, what else do we have the ability totrack with US technology? All Right, I'm looking here at my some ofmy stats. So for the Great Lakes, for the Glados Network, we've taggeda total of forty seven different species in the Great Lakes Basin. Soa majority of those fish are your native species, like your Walleye, yourlake trout, Lake White Fish. But we're also using the the technology tomonitor, like the movements of invasive species like Sea Lamprey. We're learning alot about the ecology of Sea Lamprey, where they go to spawn, youknow, and what they're general ecology is. We've been putting them in grass carpto understand the grass cart movements, you know, in the event thatsome of the silver or big head carp make it into the Great Lakes.You know, a lot of an understanding about where these fish may spawn andtheir spawning behavior. And then, like I said, we're really starting topush the envelope and tagging these smaller fish. So guys literally are tagging gobies rightfor five inch gobies with these tick tack size transmitters. But easy fish, tell me something that I did not know that we've learned with this technology. Okay, so Ross, did you know? Oh, you even didit right, Travis. I took him so long to get there. Thankyou. Did you know that while I...

...exhibit, exhibit very predictable and repeating, repeated spawning movements throughout the course of the year? I did not.I mean, I've heard now, I guess sidebar like Sandusky Bay like there'sdifferent I've heard like almost gene pools and some of the bigger fish go toSandusky Bay and they spawn right out of the gate and then leave that kindof this part of what you got. Or Yeah, yeah, so genepools is a is a would be a contentious choice of word because some ofthe genetics a lot of syllables. For a while I got yeah, alot of syllables. It's very difficult to parse out some of these different Walleyestocks with genetics. But by tagging these individual spawning aggregations or stocks, saythe Sandusky River, Mammi River, Ohio Reefs, Detroit River reef, DetroitRiver stock, Ontario reefs, were able to get an idea of how thesedifferent stocks, if you would, move throughout the lake. So one ofthe earliest studies we started with was back in two thousand and ten up inthe tiebowossee river in Saginaw Bay, and then a companion study in the MaumiRiver. And so what we found for those fish up in Saginaw Bay wasthat when they spawned in the tiebowossity river and left Saginaw Bay, some proportionof them made a left hand turn and went north up towards the Straits,up towards Lake Michigan, and another proportion of the population actually made or rightand started heading down to southern Lake Huron and some of them eventually make itinto Lake Erie actually. But what was interesting is they repeatedly did the samebehavior from year to year. So those that went out of Saginaw Bay andmade a right will, they kept doing that and successive years and those thatmade turned and made a left they did the same thing in Lake Erie.We're seeing very similar things. If you're talking about the fish that are spawningon the reefs or in the rivers, they come out and they leave afterthe spawning period, they leave that general area and they make very predictable andrepeated movements to the same areas year after year. Now, the extent towhich they go may vary from year to year based on whether it's a coolyear or a warm year, but the general you know pattern, you knowmovement is pretty predictable and that actually is what made them probably pretty susceptible tooverfishing. You know, early on, or what makes any fish stock overa susceptible to overfishing is when they do the same thing unrepeated basis, becausethen fisherman can set up in known areas and I'm sure you know that.I'm sure you have your little black book that you keep locked the way somewherethat says I want to be here on this date with this water temperature becausethis is where the big fish are going to be interesting. Okay, thatthat doesn't surprise me so much. which she said? I mean, that'sI mean, I think people they find it hard to believe how far theydo move. You know, I think it might have been your boss atthe Ohio Fisheries of the time, Jeff Tyson. I remember I call ona tag into him that was tagged up on Thunder Bay on Lake here onand thirty some days later it was you know, I caught it down inhere on Ohio and he basically was called me crazier in a corner care ofBrat and thinking I was screwing with them. Much is viable. But you know, anybody knows Jeff. You know he's a corn C yeah, anyrate, Jeff had his own vernacular, that's for sure. Yeah, he'she's a good old boy from Dal south, but any rate. Okay, yeah, what educate me some more, Chris. Okay, so Ross,did you know that while I actually spend very little time in the mid andupper water column throughout the course of the year. What do we call theupper part of Watercolm say, in the upper twenty five percent of the water, calm. So you'RE IF YOU'RE OFF OF CLEVELAND. They spend very littletime actually suspended up in the water column. They're generally associated with the bottom really. So I guess, then, not to pin this on you,but when we say bottom, are we talking, let's say in Cleveland,where fifty, sixty feet or something? HMM. Are we talking that they'reforty two, fifty feet or more down? No, I'm saying within a couplemeters of the bottom, like this wonder stuff, crazy three, threeto six feet there, within three to six feet of the bottom. Sothose pressure tags we talked about, we released a bunch of wally with thosepressure tags and we were able to follow them over the course of the yearand what we thought was very, very intriguing was that when you looked atthe history of where these fish were located, the actually came up off the bottomfor very short periods of time over the course of twenty four hours.So they're probably resting near the bottom for the majority of the day. Whenthey get the hankering or the urge to feed, they kind of move upinto the watercolumn, do what they're going...

...to do and kind of drop rightback down. I was going to say because, you know, a littlebit on both sides of this. I've caught fish. I mean I'm notgoing to tell people high because it's that high and Cleveland, but primarily inlow lighter at night. Me and producer, do you remember that TV show weshot about? Was it ten years ago maybe? They called one likeright around Christmas. It was Christmas time now, and we caught fish likestupid high. But again it was dark and they were feeding out. Therewas tons of Gizzard shed and you know, stuff high in the column there fishingkind of little heedies. But inversely, you know, I told some guyclients to their day and they kind of looked at me like I wascrazy. No, we're talking well west of there in the central base andbut long story short, the fish were like they're but they were so deep. It was one of those deals unless you had really good electronics knew whatyou were doing, like because you don't really have a mark. Fish areon bottom, on bottom, you really don't. But nevertheless those fish liftit up a little bit and it was like you could do no wrong andit was just like you said, they maybe came only up five you know, so the the real good bighters came up ten feet, but off bottomthere again, in fifty five feet of water. But then they go rightback down and it was like you could do nothing right, like it wasthat was your window. And so I I've kind of seen both, youknow, ends of that spectrum and I tell people all the time when they'reon bottom, and it's like the analogy I use as it's like being,you know, in a prison cell with a lights out or something and somebodywanting you're like everybody's kind of minding their own business. Right then it's likecheesecake at the cafeteria for free. When they're off bottom. I yeah,yeah, so it's pretty that's pretty. You know. I think that actuallychanged my thought. I thought they were up high, you know, feeding. You know, you hear a lot of guys running dates in the midwatercolumn, you know, during the middle of the day or even at night, you know, but I it would be and when we set our GillNets to survey them, you know, generally we would take them or dropthem just below the service and surface and we'd get lots. You know,we catch lots of fish, but they proportionately spend a very little time,you know, in the upper in the upper part of the water column,based on some of the preliminary stuff that we've been seeing, which is,you know, it's and things change, right and the s when I kindof started doing this full time, we caught a lot of fish. Andwhen do you'd say hi if there is a reason you weren't catching this becauseyou weren't going high enough, like we were catching them three till, let'ssay, ten feet down, and that's why the I think the Bates havechanged that we use so much now, because a lot of that stuff thatwas so successful just can't get deep enough and we've got, you know,snap weights and moving to other methods. So that's why, hopefully people listento this realize that like this information, you know, use it, butkind of try to apply it to what you already know and it helps youunderstand maybe the results, or of the lack of results that you're getting.Yeah, so along the lines of the fish moving up in the water column, Ross, did you know that, while I are capable, or havebeen observed inhabiting water that varied by fifty degrees over a twenty four hour timeperiod. Fifty degrees. Yeah, so I now where could where could theyeven happen? So out in the eastern basin again, out we're the thermalstratification stick sets up very strong. So you know past you know, eastof the Pennsylvania Ridge, talking now Erie Pennsylvania, down to Buffalo. SoI we might. We talked a little bit earlier about the transmitters and howwe can put sensors in them, you know. So one of the onesis temperature sensors. And so we've actually seen fish that will reside in verycool water during the day, kind of just chilling and then lifting up intothe warmer water, likely to feed and then dropping back down. So ingraduate school I worked on Dale Hollow Reservoir with Walle I actually there and itwas very common for the fish to actually they actually did something. But theywould do is they would stay in the they would stay, they would stayin the warmer water, they would and then they would just drop, youknow, they would stay in the cold water. They come up and justgorge themselves on Threadfin Shad and whatnot and then they drop down below the thermiconand just chill out there during the day. Now they'd also be able to fitfeed on Ale lives, which are in that colder water. But theyhad the best of both worlds. They could chill in the cold water duringthe day, go up and eat a very accessible meal with threadfinch at andGizzard chat then drop back down the cold water. You see the same thinghappening in the eastern basin, and so it's interesting is down there in theeastern basin what we're seeing is that are older and bigger fish. Primary thefemales are the ones that travel the furthest east on an annual basis, andthat's the likely what they're doing. They're maximizing. There are metabolism where theycan go and feed on warm water species and then just go sit in thecold water and just slow that metabolism way down. Is there a number youwhen you said like basically they're they're burning...

...essentially more calories. I know that'snot what's happening, but they bring more calories than what they're putting up.Or however that translate. What is the what is that temperature where now they'reburning more than what it let's say they're not eating, but you know whatI mean. Yeah, so I think maybe your technology dude. I think, as you refer to him here and there's are dude, pretty producer dude. He's like Wilson homes that remember, home improvement. Well, yeah,you know, you don't ever really see him, but he's there. He'sthere. Yet you need a fence. You need to fence. I canI feel over all. Right. So in in scientific units we call itCelsius. So if I offhand, it's about twenty three Celsius, which Inot entirely sure what that convert convert to to Fahrenheit. But what we're seeingis when these fish have the chance, they are selecting temperatures that that's coolerthan that, you know. So when the lake is firmly stratified, whenthere's cold water and warm water, fish or selecting temperatures that are a bitcooler than that twenty degree Celsius marked. That's sixty eight degrees Fahrenheit. Yeah, so we're probably talking that they're closer down into the s and what sothere's not that. It's through in a punch. I love. Yeah,there you go. I Guess I've listened to enough podcast I know there's somebody. They're ready at the keyboard, ready to go. If somebody there that'ssmarter than the host, we're still looking for that guy. Yeah, well, so, anyway, that's kind of what we're finding. And that wasanother one of those did you know facts? I was going to tell you is, did you know that fish of different size and different ages actually havedifferent thermal preferences and and basically what we're seeing is that these bigger, largerfish select colder waters than the younger fish, which has caused me to come tothe conclusion, and I you know again, I worked up in northernMinnesota for a year and it draws the ire, but I would argue thatLake Erie is the most ideal place for while I in North America, andI say that because they have what they need for all aspects of their lifecycle. When they're young and when they're hatched, they have the western basin, which is warm, which allows them to grow quickly and which has abunch of food, tons of forage for them to eat. As they growolder, there's habitat that's conducive for them to live to long ages and tokind of just survive. So as they get older and they grow larger theywere, they select cooler temperature. So really it's the best of both worlds. It's good for them when they're young and then as they grow older theyget to be there's habitat there that supports and sustains them getting to those olderages. So I don't know, Ross, if you have the time, butI wanted a did you know, Ross, that female wall I spendrelatively very little time on the spawning grounds? That doesn't surprise me. But whatare we calling a little time? Okay, Ross, if your boatwas on the line, what would you guess the average amount of time,if female, spends on the spawning grounds in the act of spawning? Yes, boat on the line, this is producer. Did I feel like there'sthis? Yeah, I mean it's definitely got to be less than forty eighthours. I would say ten hours, twelve hours, Ross, I willgive you my address and you can park your boat in my driveway, youknow, later this afternoon. The correct answer would be likely less than anhour. Hole, producer do did you see that coming? No, Iwas thinking couple days. Yeah, because I mean you see him roll,see I'm in fairness, before I hand over the keys, like you knowhow they're out there, are rolling, you know, softening the eggs.Technically they're on the reefs, all right, Ross what happens when a attractive individualwalks into a bar? Oh Gosh, producer, dude, this is goingto go south. Last now it quickly loving it. Yes, let'sdo it, Chris. It's basically a train wreck, right, just likethis podcast exactly. Don't for it. So so here's the deal. Whatwe're finding is that while those females may come over to, say, thereef area or coming to the rivers to stage for quite a bit bit oftime, they're actually not on the spawning grounds for very long. Wondering youwant. Well, so, interestingly, one of the female researchers in ourcollaboration refers it to it is understanding the...

...dynamics from the bar to the bedroom. Oh God, and today's saying in a government agency that that's well,she was an academia so I guess she had a little bit more cover there. But but so what's interesting is this to this telemetry is helping us understand, you know, what the what their movements are and what the ecology is. So what we're seeing is those females like you kind of alluded to,right, so early in the year everybody wants to be the first one out. They're trolling around the perimeter of the reefs, right, they're looking forthat big state record, right. But what are all those fish? They'reall preschool on right, they're all still gravid. But what we're seeing,and what we think is going on is that these fish stage out there andthey're just waiting for the water temperatures in the photo period to get right.But when it comes time to spawn, they literally run up onto that reef, go around spawn. The exhibit that behavior you're talking about, where yousee him come up to the surface and there might be four or five maleskind of nudging her and and pressing on her abdomen trying to get those eggstheoretically to release. But once that's done, it's very quick and she is offto the races. So we actually see once she spawns, she startsheading out east. So I mean like what I've seen, let's say thereef complex. I'll say like a can't pay reef complex. A lot ofspawning goes on there. Obviously that's not the only place, but we'll seethose fish head towards like the Bass Islands, maybe not even quite to that,you know, on the bmuod basins, and it because I catch them onbouncers or something on the bottom or when we get to Kelly, someof that deep water there. So those deep water holes. Obviously I don'tknow where they spawned or whatever, but I mean how long from there tothere? Do you think? Probably a possibly a matter of hours, ifnot less than a day. Now some of those, I feel like,from a fishing standpoint. Again, I don't obviously don't want an these fishfor spawning, but I feel like what we see is one of those firstbig waves come in right which is the best I knowledge I can have becauselike, hey, fish aren't spawning. Now all sudden they're spawning. You'reeither seeing it or you know. And now all of a sudden you're catchingfish that are while he's still got some of their pre spall in their stageing. Hey, we got some of their postpone. Now, like you couldten pound fish and let's get nothing in there. And we're catching those generallytowards the bottom. Generally, and I've caught them literally with mud caked intheir bills. Were like. You know, I'm my theory is, Hey,they're down there, they're recovering from the spawn. They're going to tryto put on a little bit of a little protein shake before they high tailit out of there. Do we have any idea what that resting before theylong haul it is? So here's the thing is, while Lake Erie's coveredvery well right now with receivers, when we did the initial releases of thosefish on Niagara and Crib Reef and in the Mammi rivers, we didn't haveas great extensive coverage, so we couldn't answer those questions. Now we can, but I think what you're saying and what you're seeing is very consistent withwhat we see. So there's been some studies that shows that those bigger females, they are the ones that spawn first and they are the first ones thatleave the western basin. They start high tailing it. They go through theisland area very quickly and so, anecdotally, what was interesting is when the professionalwallet tournament used to come to town, to Port Clinton, you know,Travis and I would often work it and we'd be getting samples there andinterestingly, the guys that were winning it. We're generally catching post spawn fish,but they were running really far east and it was like a gamble tohow far east they wanted to run because those were generally the biggest fish,but they were spent right. So you could either stay in the Western baseco Trol hope to get those prespawned fish, or you went you started heading moreeast looking for those fish that were maybe more favorable, but the tradeoffwas is where you going to be able to find the right so they weregenerally the big tanks and they were generally spawned out well. And you know, a lot of that to a hundred percent agree and you know, Iwould say like vermilion lorraine seems to be kind of I don't know if Isay holding arounds, but kind of short term stopping arounds for what you justsaid. And I think a lot of those tournaments and ones that I've personallywon or, you know, done well and whereas where when you're down inthose areas but you're actually catching these fish that have absorbed or haven't dropped eggs, and that's something that we've learned of Travis, a lot you know,a little more and maybe you can touch on this where some of these fishthat are like, you know, Xage, you know as Travis is terms was, you know, hey us. It's like a seven year old womangiving birth, like they don't go through that process every year, maybe everyother, every third year. And those fish are the ones how you wenttournaments, for sure. So Ross you apparently somebody has tipped you off tothe game show host questions, because I was going to say Ross, didyou know that why I female wall I don't spawn every year. Stealing thunder, since nd you feeling thunder? Yeah, so that's really interesting. Actually,that was the first. So the telemetry is actually given us the firstactually evidence of that. Right. So...

...when we would tag these fish,they would all be what we call gravid females. These were females in thespring that had that distended belly very clear they were sexually mature. So whatwe were able to find is that, on an annual basis, they don'talways come back to spawn. Some of them, when they migrate out East, they'll stay out east all year long. So when they're compadres or migrating backto the Western basin to spawn, they'll actually make the decision to stayout there, and we look at where we're finding them on the receivers andwe don't think that they're on other spawning grounds because the spawning habitat is generallypretty not limited, but pretty well defined. So we have pretty good evidence tosuggest that they're not spawning yet again, but rather they're making this decision tonot go through the process. Now, what you described is actually a femalethat developed the eggs and she decided to reabsorb them for whatever reason.Right, like you said, they as were females that or maybe she justcouldn't spawn, right. I mean maybe it will be. They want todo her, but Mama says now. Yeah, I mean so there's aphysiological cost to spawning. Right. It's not a simple thing. I mean, think about it. They're losing up to twenty five percent of their weightin a very short period of time when they spawn. You know, femaleeggs generally where you are in the neighborhood of twenty to twenty five percent ofthe fish's weight. Right, it can be that much. So if you'redepositing those eggs in a forty five minute period, can you imagine how metabolicallyand physiologically expensive, that is. So there's some type of decisions process goingon. This says, Hey, it's better for me to reabsorb it.There's a few places on the lake which I'm not going to tell anybody,but that I have. I have, I thought, a thirty five inchurethat was spawned out still weight fourteen pounds, like. I mean, you knowthat's this is back when Tyson was the head of fisheries, and he'slike, oh, congratulations, longest wallet we've seen in a while and Oh, by the way, that would have been a state recer of things.Yeah, but but during that deal I saw multiple fish that were floating okayand had seagulls pecking on them that they I'm assuming, died during spawning,and they were they were all giants. I mean yeah, thirty two,thirty three inches, like. I mean a legit thirty three inch wallet.There's just not many of them. Yeah, no, and that's why I'm sayingthat it's physiologically very expensive. I mean, think about it. Fromthe time the deposit their eggs, everything they're doing up until that time.The next year is basically focused on that same thing, developing eggs for thenext year. I think it's really interesting that again, because one of myquestions for you is going to be, rather than was on or off cameras. You know, are those bigger fish like when you already said? Butyou know that they're staying east, whatever that may be. WHATEVER EAST IS, east to Cleveland, let's say, but I seem to catch a lotof fish. I'll say east to the Bass Islands, but still, I'mgoing to call not really in the central basin, or not much, andbasically where it starts to go deep, and those fish are in there andand we catch a, I would say a fair amount of what I'm goingto call fish that are absorbing their eggs. Are At least fish. Once youknow, basically fishing is done and these fish are still loaded up right. So, let's say this is maybe late May or something. That watertemperatres getting up there. Guys are hardly catching any fish at all. Eventhe males have left the reefs. So again, I'm assuming, but thosefish did not go through it for whatever reason. Generally they're all big fish, but those fish must have made that that travel down, assuming they justweren't some local fish, because there's a lot of fish that are. Youknow, I catch some fish are locally that, you know, they don'tseem to ever leave and they're bigger. Yeah, yeah, so I thinkyou're absolutely right. I mean, so they may come back, but theymade decide not to run up the river or go back to the reef tospawn. I mean, we don't have any way of telling if a fishactually expelled their eggs, but when you don't see them go back to knownspawning areas, you say, okay, is fish decided not to spawn forwhatever reason. I mean, the thing that's interesting about the area you're talkingabout is that you know there's a dyre that sets up there near Wheatley rightthat's kind of infiltrated with kind of cool, clear water throughout even the summer,and so it must be a really good spot, you know, forthose fish to kind of just set up and they may just stay there aslong as they can because again, they have the cool, wet, coolwater, but they also have abundant forage. That that's a good place, youknow, for Big Wall eyes and, you know, steelhead, you knowfor I don't think it's for whatever reason, hasn't quite set up likeit used to in the last handful of years. But I can remember,as a much younger fellow, you know, that a lot of guys would makethat run up there because it was it was, way, way,way more consistent than it is now. But yeah, just there's so manythings here I don't think even you would take a hard stance one because we'restill learning and as more of this information just more years. Right, youadd this information up that it becomes a...

...little more you can say, Hey, this is this isn't maybe a rule of thumb, but this is consistentdata. Well, what's interesting is that every time we get a results backwe're just like, man, these fish aren't doing what we what they're supposedto be doing. And the reality of it is is right, you developthese conceptual models, but once you actually start tagging fish and getting a betteridea of what they're doing, and you're like, Oh, now I seeand so that why that's important. While this is very interesting, why it'simportant for the fishery managers because now they can start putting certain numbers on thesethings. Right. So, basically, fit managers know that you know,come June July, there's probably very few older fish in the population in theWestern basin. They've all moved out. In fact, by like the endof May into June, most of those older fish, you know they're goingto be that you're going to find, but the majority of them have movedout of the Western basin. So when you're talking about, well, howmany fish are there in Lake Erie? Well, yeah, there may bea hundred million, why in Lake Erie, but seventy five percent of them maybe, you know, east of Cleveland at any you know, given time, due to the time of year and the dynamics and demographics of the population, if they're all older, then they're probably in having different waters. Yeah, I mean anybody's listening to this definitely going to look at a couple podcasts. You have to Travis Harton in the fisheries director or whatever it is titleare for Ohio is, because we he told us it was like ninety somepercent left the western basin, which I was just I knew it was abig portion, but it blew my mind just because you think of a forgetthe science for a second, like ninety percent of the sport, fishing andcharter captains are all there, like you know these other places. Yet itexists, but nothing like it is down here, and I mean that wasa mind blowing number to me. And it's really important right because if you'retaking a sample and you're saying, Oh, the maximum age of why Western baseof Lake Erie is only five years old, he's like wow, theydon't live very long right in June. But if you were to take asample of the whole lake you'd say, Oh, look, the maximum ageis twenty two years old because all those bigger, older fish have migrated downto the New York waters. So that's where this telemetry information, in myopinion, has been great because it helps the the managers get a better conceptualframework of what these fish are doing and what the stock as a whole isdoing. You know, we're seeing first the reef fish move out of thewestern basin, then the mammy river fish move out and then the Detroit Rivercome out. So it's like there's waves of fish that are moving through theWestern basin and I just laugh and people like, oh, that's a reefish, and I just like how do you know? But I mean just becauseas you watch the data, it just they're coming through and waves and youjust don't know. It's very hard to predict or saying this is this kindof fish. Well, and I've had this conversation with one about to tellyou with with trap is privately and on our podcast, is that when Iwas a young kid, they used to do the helicopter deal, like speedchecking, right, and that they were they were timing, just like you, the cops. They will, you know, marks on the highway andthat was how they were trying to estimate the populations. And you just kindof look at it like, Oh my God, that's archaic and I justwonder, you know, is relatively fast as we've come to what we're talkingabout with, you know, the acoustic stuff that you're doing. Is,you know, our me and you and five or ten years going to lookback on this conversation or someone look at this podcast and go, can youbelieve we listen to those guys like that? was like. Now we just goto this APP and we find out, you know, what's going on.I mean what is there any technology in the works? Rather you're involvedwith they're not, or different division that is going to help us understand realnumbers, movements or just or the fish, you know, aging or whatever.That maybe real hard numbers. What are we want to get there.So when Travis and I both started, we instituted aging fish with odalists andthat was a huge those are the Inns, the lucky stones that you find fromdrum on the shoreline, there the earbones, and they give them muchmore accurate and precise estimate of the fish age then what was historically used withscales. So, like prop when I first started, travis and I wouldsearch the database in the maximum majors, like ten years old. You know, few years into a starting we started using these odors and boom, alllook at this, we have twenty two year old fish out there. Well, what does that tell us about the population? It tells us that naturalmortality, the rate that which fish died due to natural causes, is probablyway lower than we thought it was. And that's good because that's an investmentright. So now you can invest in the future with these big hatches sothat you have good fishing five, ten, fifteen years down the road, becauseyou know that they're going to they're going to live, whereas if youthink of fish is only going to lift a ten years old, why notharvest it right? Here's my last question for you. With with what you'veall you said in this this tagging stuff...

...that let's say a bigger fish that'sroughly ten years old and one that's three years old when they start to moveeast to the central base and maybe to the west end of the eastern basinand that range, so let's say like Lorraine to maybe the Pennsylvania high line, something like that. Are Are those bigger fish? are a three poundLille and a nine or ten pound lie? Are they swimming side by side?Are they different portions of the water column because of that Cool Water?He said that. You know that they like or are these things mixed up? Probably, I would say they're going to be mixed up. Yeah,I don't think that they segregate themselves necessarily in the water column like your kindof referencing. I think it's more of a longitudinal segregation, like I thinkthat those bigger fish tend to be, not exclusively but ten to be furthereast than the smaller ones. But at a locale, yeah, I thinkit's very, very, very similar. Now, with that being said,so when we would set when I work for the DNR, we would rungill net surveys. We'd start in Toledo when we run all the way upto Kanya, right to the eastern border of Ohio. What you could seevery clearly is that the mean size of both males and females would increase asyou went from the West to the east. Now, you would always be catchingfewer fish as you went from west to east, but the mean sizewas always increasing as you would go further east, and the proportion of femalesalso would increase as you went from west to east. So they're definitely segregating, you know, in some fashion. But it's not like they're not anyof the smaller ones, right. So some of those smaller ones may begenetically wired to run east and they are going to be that really big fishfive six years down the road. Right, it's just like deer. Right,big bucks probably are big when they're, you know, yearlings. Right,it's like, oh, that's pretty impressive. You know it's so thesefish are probably exhibiting those tendencies early on and it's not fully realized until they're, you know, more mature. I'm fascinated by this stuff, pretty SirDude. I mean I think Chris was a pretty good game show host.Don't you think we should have them back and maybe never travis again. See, see, he is a doubt. He is a double agent. Youknow, he's always he's on Travis this thing. Now he's on you,Chris. So remember that when you guys both side against me. But wewould like to have you back on if you will oblige us down the road. Yeah, absolutely. This is really incredible stuff. I mean it's sohard to try to synthesize all this data. I mean, so I'm looking atour database right. So in our glattos database, just for context,we have about five hundred million fish detections. So so trying to sift through allthat. So the other day that bat files I was talking about,he was going to run some summaries for me yesterday last night and he's like, I can't, my computer can't handle the data set. It was itwas blowing his computer up right because we get so much data. So it'shard to pass through all this and and pull out what you want, andso it forces us to ask very specific questions, and so I just seeus doing this more and more. The first few years, to be honestwith you, was just determining that this would work. So anytime you're doingbig stuff in the Great Lakes. You have no idea if it works.So just a quick story trap, because this is a travis story. Whenwe first started, we started putting these pit tags in Walleye and I don'tknow if you're familiar with what a pit tag is, but if you havelike a dog and you want to get a micro chip, that's a pittag. So we put a couple thousand of these in fish that were spawningin the mammy river. Back again, two thousand and two. We releasethem and then what we would do? We would do was called dumpster diving. We would go to the different we would go to the different cleaning stationslike wild wings, Turtle Creek, all these places, and we would scancarcasses looking for these tags. And I mean like some mornings in July thepile would be undulating, you know, because of Maggots, you know,but we are we did. We had to scan these fish and I rememberthe first time the reader went off. I think Travis was with me andI did the happy dance like and he's just like laughing. But the thoughtthat you could tag a fish, release it and then find that fish inthe population of sixty million was just at the time. It's not mine numbingright, but this is how this technology, the stuff works. It's like yougot to take the risk and give it a try. I people weretelling us we were nuts. There's no way. It's the same thing withthe telemetry. We initially those projects were just like a proof of concept.Willis even worked and now Lake Erie is probably one of the best studied interms of receivers coverage in the world with the telemetry. Like I mean,the stuff that we're doing here in the...

Great Lakes is the same that they'redoing out in the ocean to monitor great white shark movements all across the globe. They're using the telemetry stuff and I think we're very fortunate because of theinvestments that were made at the fishery the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, and havingthis technology in this capabilities here in the Great Lakes. It's it's amazing.I think it's safe to say that we don't know enough and as much oras much as we think we do, but we know so much more thanwe did just a little bit ago. We know how much we don't know. There you go. Well, the good here's the good news. Ofthe bad news. The good news producer dude likes you. That's very difficult. I'M NOT gonna lie. He does it. He still doesn't like me. We've been together like twelve years or something stupid. Okay, the badnews is we don't really pay for this. Our budget is how much, producerdo? What's our budget? Currently? Zero, zero. We're still atzero. So we would love to have you on, if you wouldhave us, and we're going to have to do this down the road.So say some fun facts for us and some other you know, if there'sanything that POPs up, make sure to let us know. But producer dudeO, is he equal with Travis? Or did I mean where we adon a one to tend scale? Because I feel like there's a little friendlycompetition here, or maybe not so friendly. This was really good, I mean, I mean it was all new stuff that we did didn't learn fromTravis, and not saying and we learned a lot from Travis. This wasjust additional pieces to the puzzle. I think they're they got to be complimentary, right, because Travis they have the management authority. We basically just answerquestions. Are Our roles to answer research questions? So you know, it'sa good combination. Travis and I always like to poke each other, butthen of the day, we call each other up and we get together ona regular basis. So well, Chris, thank you for giving us your timeand thank you very, very for tuning into the big water podcast.We've got a pile of the loaded up on Youtube and God where we gotthem? Apple, Google, stitchers, spotify, producer, dude, I'mdying. What else we got? Got Them. That's it. And BigWater Fishingcom. They're also there. There's a podcast page on your website.Look for big water fishing on Youtube. We've got us on Instagram, facebook, pretty much just Google's right. I think we're everywhere, as I liketo say, but in prison so far. Yeah, that's what you say,I do doesn't get better. Again. Thanks Christ for your time. Hopefullyenjoyed it. We're out appreciate it. Thank you for having me.

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