Stanley Lake crib reef from the south end is an example of how the new fish crib reef on the Michigamme Reservoir will appear. (Ziegler photo)
CRYSTAL FALLS—A fish habitat crib reef is being constructed at the Michigamme Reservoir off WE Energies Site 19 (Challancin’s Landing) during February and March.
The cribs for the reef are being built by volunteers, Wildlife Unlimited of Iron County and the Iron County Sheriff Department Work Crew (Ron Curnow, crew leader) in cooperation with WE Energies. The reef is being funded by a grant from Wildlife Unlimited of Iron County.
Snowmobilers and ice anglers are asked to use caution in the reef construction area, which is about 0.6 miles east-northeast of WE Site 19.
The logs are placed in a crude log cabin style to form a crib eight feet by eight feet by five feet high and made out of hardwood pulp logs. There will be about 25 cribs laid out in a “zigzag” pattern about 300 feet in length.
Fisheries research revealed that a reef made of a number of cribs has more habitat value than individual cribs placed around the lake, while the zigzag pattern maximizes the habitat value (increased surface area) of the reef.
The cribs will fall through the ice prior to spring break up into about 23 feet of water at full pool level. The cribs are placed at a depth so they are below the winter drawdown but readily accessible to game fish during the full pool periods (open water).
Bill Ziegler, Wildlife Unlimited member, states that the Michigamme Reservoir has a stable self sustaining walleye population and good numbers of smallmouth bass and panfish.
Natural fish cover in the form of weed beds and woody cover are limited in the reservoir due to ice damage during down operations and destruction by the exotic rusty crayfish.
The reef type and design will provide a large site of woody cover and simulate a large weed bed.
The primary reason for installing the crib reef was to make up for this loss of fish habitat. A second benefit of the crib reef is that they improve the anglers’ fishing success.
“I have done extensive fish utilization evaluations of the 15 reefs built in Iron and Dickinson County lakes using SCUBA and snorkeling,” said Ziegler.
“Those evaluations give a good idea of what to expect for fish using this new reef. Walleye, smallmouth bass, black crappie, bluegill, rock bass, and yellow perch will all use the reef, but typically not all at the same time. Typically, fish species groups will move into the reef area for a period of time and then move into other reservoir areas. Since walleye is one of the more dominant fish species in the overall Michigamme Reservoir fish population, it is likely they will be prominent at the reef site.
“I have observed walleye and other fish species segregating in the cribs by size/age groups. While diving in walleye lakes with fish crib reefs I have observed small walleye utilizing some cribs in the reef while larger walleye were together in other cribs.”
In the next two years, Wildlife Unlimited of Iron County hopes to build one or two more crib reefs at Michigamme Reservoir dependent on future grant applications.
The project is very dependent on volunteer labor and this availability of volunteers will also affect future reef projects. With adequate grant funding and volunteer participation this has the potential to produce one of the better fishing spots on Michigamme Reservoir for many years to come.