Fisheries research vessels expand our knowledge of Great Lakes

While at a Great Lakes port this summer and fall, you might see one of the DNR’s four large fisheries research vessels conducting annual surveys of Great Lakes fish populations. The vessels are based out of Marquette, Alpena, Charlevoix and Harrison Township harbors, and the DNR staff aboard these vessels do a variety of work to better understand the fish communities, population sizes and habitats in these waters.

Fisheries assessment and evaluation work on Lake Huron is done by the research vessel (R/V) Tanner, launched in 2016. This vessel focuses on Lake Huron lake trout and walleye populations, and spends time in Saginaw Bay and the St. Marys River to evaluate their fish communities.

Work on lakes St. Clair and Erie is done by the R/V Channel Cat, now marking its 50th year of service! This vessel helps researchers learn about walleye, yellow perch and lake sturgeon in the waters that support some of Michigan’s busiest fishing activity.

Lake Superior work is conducted by the R/V Lake Char, launched in 2007. The Lake Char assesses the status of Lake Superior’s self-sustaining lake trout populations along with other members of the unique cold-water fish community found in that area.

On Lake Michigan, the survey vessel Steelhead, launched in 1967, focuses on adult yellow perch, whitefish, lake trout and chinook salmon populations.

When these unique vessels are in port, feel free to visit and talk with the crews about their work. Learn more by visiting or contacting Gary Whelan at 517-284-5830 or Elyse Walter at 517-284-5839.