Stocking Atlantic salmon in St. Mary’s River

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LSSU/John Shibley

Lake Superior State University and the Sault Ste. Marie community celebrated 30 years of raising and releasing Atlantic salmon on June 3 with the naming of this year’s “class” of fish, while enjoying salmon snacks and a special vintage of local wine created in honor of the event.

Members of the community, LSSU faculty, staff, and students, special guests, and representatives of the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources Fisheries Division, a longtime LSSU partner at LSSU’s Aquatic Research Laboratory, were all on hand to celebrate the milestone in Sault Ste. Marie’s James Alford Park, outside the Cloverland Electrical Cooperative power plant, which houses the LSSU lab on the St. Mary’s River.

In honor of the special occasion, LSSU named this year’s class of Atlantic salmon, nearly 37,000 yearlings, for Richard Barch, Ann Arbor, a longtime benefactor of the university, and especially the aquatic lab. Barch and his wife, Theresa, were on hand to release a portion of the salmon class into the river.

“It’s great to be here today to celebrate this occasion and to honor Mr. and Mrs. Barch, who have been great friends of the university,” said LSSU President Tom Pleger. The LSSU president noted that the 30th anniversary comes at a pivotal time for the lab and the university, as Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the state legislature consider promoting expansion of the lab as one of their top priorities for capital outlay projects in the coming year.

LSSU co-director of the lab, Dr. Kevin Kapuscinski, introduced lab colleagues Dr. Ashley Moerke, co-director, and Roger Greil, manager, as well as members of the MDNR Fisheries Division.

“I’m the new guy here, but I couldn’t have landed in a better place for studying fisheries science,” Kapuscinski said. “The lab is more than a hatchery; it’s a classroom. I’ve been impressed by what it has accomplished in 30 years, and I am excited to see what it will do in the next 30 years.”

Gary Whelan, MDNR Fisheries Division Research Manager, noted that the LSSU 30-year celebration ranks with another recent DNR milestone, this year’s 50th anniversary of the state raising and releasing coho salmon in the Great Lakes.

(LSSU/John Shibley
(LSSU/John Shibley

“We have a one-of-a-kind relationship, the only partnership involving an institute of higher learning working with a state agency to produce a fisheries resource like this for the people of the state of Michigan,” Whelan said, noting that when LSSU and the DNR stocked Atlantics in the river in 1987, it was the first time it had been done since the 1800s.

“Atlantic salmon are known as the king of fish — or the king’s fish. In Europe, anglers pay thousands of dollars to be able to fish for them. Thanks to the imagination and vision of several people who started this project, anglers can experience this remarkable fishery at a much smaller cost, with no guide and really no experience required…Atlantic salmon are now a key target species in Lake Huron, and anglers across the country are hearing about it due to your efforts.”

Ed Eisch, MDNR Fish Production Supervisor, was celebrating his 30-year anniversary as an LSSU graduate during today’s event.

“When I graduated, the LSSU lab was just ramping up,” Eisch said. “It has become much more sophisticated since that time…Roger Greil and his students have created a world class fishery, but the real claim to fame for the lab is turning out fisheries professionals.”

Eisch noted that LSSU students stand out above their peers for their work experience and being able to design research projects and carry them out. He said over the years that experience has helped them find jobs – many with the DNR itself — and earn graduate school placements.

“I hope our partnership with LSSU continues long into the future,” he added.

Barch, an avid hunter, fisherman and traveler who discovered the LSSU lab while fishing for Atlantic salmon, said he was “honored and humbled” to be recognized at the anniversary event.

“Thanks very much to Drs. Kevin and Ashley, Roger, and students who helped raise this class of fish. I’m sure it will provide the best fishing so far,” he said.

Barch has noted in the past that he has hunted and fished around the world, and in his travels has found the fishing for Atlantic salmon in the St. Mary’s River to be the best he has seen anywhere.

Barch served in the U.S. Army and the British 17/21 Lancers before beginning his career in finance with Kenower, MacArthur and Co. Investment Bankers in 1964 and eventually founding his own business, Stauder, Barch and Associates, in 1968, which grew to be the largest municipal consulting firm in Michigan. He and Theresa have been strong supporters of LSSU’s Arts Center, and the university presented him with an honorary doctorate during the 2001 commencement ceremony.

Visitors enjoyed a commemorative wine and salmon hors d’oeuvres for the 30th anniversary event. The wine, a shiraz and white, was produced by Sault Ste. Marie’s Wildwood Vineyard and Winery, part of Karl’s Cuisine, which catered the event along with the Antlers Restaurant and LSSU Food Service.