MSU fish prof’s first grayling on the fly
By Jeff Brooks Gillies • October 26, 2011
The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians made some riffles in the environmental news stream this summer when it announced plans to study the possibility of reintroducing arctic grayling into the Manistee River. The species was once prized here but was wiped out by overfishing, logging and competition from introduced trout.
The species’ 80-year absence here has led to an understandable dearth of grayling experts in Michigan. The closest we’ve got could be Dana Infante, assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife at Michigan State University. Infante oversaw research that ranked Michigan streams by their potential to support a population of reintroduced arctic grayling—research a Little River Band biologist cited as influential in the tribe’s decision to target the Manistee for reintroduction.
Infante presented on the stream ranking project this summer at a grayling conservation conference in Alberta, Cananda. Though she was delivering one of the conference’s keynote addresses, the researchers who gathered to hear her talk found a blank spot on her grayling resume:
“I had never seen one alive,” Infante said.
Colleagues at the conference found that wholly unsuitable. Before long, she was on a Canadian stream casting dry flies to rising grayling.
“They took us out, and we caught them,” she said. “And it was just…I can’t tell you how special it felt. That’s the best word I can come up with.”
Here’s a picture of Infante and Ralph Tingley, the doctoral student who carried out the stream ranking study. Note their commitment, like all good angling fish biologists, to carry an aquarium to examine their quarry, despite the bulk and weight it adds to the vest.
Here’s a better look at the grayling and a memeber of their fishing party. John Gierach wrote that there’s no such thing as a good fishing dog, but I’ve got a good feeling about this one.