Only six hours from the Metro Detroit area, the St. Marys River is the sole outlet of Lake Superior, running approximately 70 miles east to Lake Huron. A unique and vital transportation, hydrological, and ecological link between Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes, the St. Marys rapids were one of the most productive habitats for fish in the continent. Native species including whitefish, northern pike, walleye, lake trout, and lake sturgeon were dominant for many years. Today, salmon and trout comprise the major sport fishery in the river, with steelhead runs taking place from April through July, followed by Atlantic salmon (late summer) and Chinook and pink salmon in the fall.
Anyone who has fished this great waterway knows it to be a truly dynamic and exhilarating place to wet a line, especially if wading the rapids section immediately below the International Bridge. Slick bottom conditions and strong currents can easily turn a mis-step or stumble into a cold dunking or worse. Felt soles and a wading staff are requirements here, along with good sunglasses that can help show sudden changes in bottom structure.
Located on the banks of this amazing fishery, the Lake Superior State University (LSSU) Aquatic Research Laboratory (ARL) is an off-campus research and educational facility devoted to the sustainability of local fish populations and water quality in the St. Marys River. Housed in the Edison Sault Electric Company’s hydroelectric plant located on the river, the ARL has made great strides in the introduction of Atlantic salmon through rearing and stocking, and more recently, the rearing of coaster brook trout in hopes of restoring populations of this magnificent char to Great Lakes tributaries. The ARL provides valuable learning and work experience to LSSU students along with research opportunities.
The ARL operates and maintains a “fishcam” located in the St. Marys River, positioned on the output side of the powerplant, immediately downstream of the ARL hatchery. Located at varying depths during the course of the year, the fishcam provides realtime video of the fish running up the river. The video stream is accessible at http://www.lssu.edu/arl/fishcam.php. The primary species viewed include steelhead, Atlantic salmon, Chinook salmon and pink salmon. Other species are occasionally seen, and during the winter (November through May), the camera is moved indoors into ARL’s sturgeon tank.
The fishcam is a tool that’s educational, and provides exposure for the university in addition to a potential answer to the question “Are the fish running?” It may not provide a definitive answer, but streaming video is a great alternative to calling area tackle shops who have a vested interest in getting you on the water. Take a few minutes to check it out today, and see what’s running in the mighty St. Marys River.