Information on loons nesting on Six Mile Lake

All,

SMLA President Cherie Hogan asked Tip of the Mitt and the DNR to respond to concerns with loons nesting on Six Mile Lake.  Below you will find two letters.  These letters have not been edited.  The letters are somewhat lengthy, but the SMLA board wanted you to read them in their entirety.

Two letters are below:

On Thursday, September 10, 2015 2:50 PM, “Hettinger, Heather (DNR)” <[email protected]> wrote:

Hi Cherie,

So about Sixmile Lake; let’s start with walleye. I recently re-wrote your stocking prescription, so now the program is to stock the lake with walleye every other year. You were last stocked with walleye in 2014, so the next stocking should be in June of 2016. As I mentioned the last time we surveyed Sixmile was in 2006, and we caught a wide variety of fish and a good selection of sizes and ages, nothing we saw seemed to be alarming or unhealthy. We try to survey lakes every ten years or so and we are planning on surveying Sixmile again in the next 2 or 3 years. I will most likely be on the lake for one night next fall (2016) to access the survival of the walleye that we stock in the spring, and I will be sure to notify you so that you can get the word out to the Association.

I would concur with your plan to not follow the recommendations of putting in three loon nesting platforms and sticking with two, as loons can be pretty territorial – while Sixmile Lake isn’t exactly small, being that it’s so narrow I can see how two would be enough. As far as encouraging loons to utilize the lake, I have never had a lake in my management area where loons have been encourage to nest and resulted in a decline in the fishery. I have a number of productive lakes similar in size and make up to Sixmile that have one or two nesting pairs of loons, with little to no complaints of impacts on the fishery. And while a loons diet consists of mostly fish they will catch crustaceans, snails, leeches and even aquatic insect larvae. So even though you see loons diving for food it isn’t always fish. In a lake like Sixmile where you have a nice balance of fish species, the loons have the option to be a little pickier when it comes to food. The fish that you and I see as the most desirable game fish like bass, large perch, and walleye, are not always the best choices for a loon. Most fish eating birds prefer fish that are less spiny and easier to digest- which in your lake would be things like shiners, minnows, white suckers, small panfish, and small perch. Once fish like perch, walleye, bluegill, and bass get over 4 inches in length the spines make it really tough on a bird to digest, and pretty much impossible for a juvenile bird. While gamefish do get eaten by loons, when given the option a loon is going to select for food that is easier to digest and easier to feed their young, so that they do not have to expend so much energy to eat it.

Hope all is well up there- I will contact you in the spring when those walleye are headed your way!
Heather

Heather Hettinger
Fisheries Management Biologist
Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources
Traverse City Field Office
231.922.5280 Ext 6870
[email protected]

 

On Thursday, September 10, 2015 2:58 PM, Kevin Cronk <[email protected]> wrote:
Hi Cherie,

My opinion is that a family of loons and a pair of cormorants would have minimal impact on the Six Mile Lake fish populations and ecosystem in general. They could conceivably even benefit the fishery by consuming the small, sick, and weak fish. The following factors likely have a bigger impact on the Six Mile Lake fishery:
1. Poor shoreline property management, particularly loss of native vegetation along the shoreline that provides critical habitat for fish in their early life stages.
2. Nuisance aquatic plant removal or loss because the aquatic vegetation provides important habitat for fish.
3. Invasive zebra mussels, which compete with other organisms in the food chain, removing algae from the water column through filter feeding and therefore, reducing the energy available and diminishing numbers and sizes of most biological populations in the food chain, including top predator fish.

Another thing to consider with regards to loons is the incredible loss we have experienced during the last eight years from avian botulism on the Great Lakes Shoreline. In 2012, volunteer “beach rangers” counted 425 dead loons on the Lake Michigan shoreline, just in Emmet County. All loons should be provided with habitat and protected to the greatest extent possible to assist with recovery from the botulism epidemic.

Sincerely,

Kevin L. Cronk
Monitoring and Research Director
Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council
www.watershedcouncil.org
231-347-1181 x109

From: Cherie Hogan [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Thursday, September 10, 2015 2:40 PM
To: Kevin Cronk <[email protected]>
Subject: Loon question

Concern has been voiced about the impact a family of loons could have on the fishery of Six Mile Lake.

There is also concern about two cormorants on the lake as well.

Could you comment please?

Thank you,

Cherie Hogan
President Six Mile Lake Association

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