KEYWORDS: trout game fish fishing story fish research fishing in Great Lakes trout story lake trout sport anglers
Larry Mattson caught a high-tech lake trout with a computer in its belly.
Mattson cut the fish open to find a computer the size of a pinky, and eventually called a phone number on a tag on the fish’s back.
That made Bill Mattes very happy. The fisheries biologist for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission said it was only the eighth computer returned among 124 planted in November 2001 by the commission, which represents 11 Ojibwe tribes dedicated to protecting natural resources.
He recovered 19 months of data from the computer. It had been recording the depth and water temperature every 15 seconds, and will tell researchers what kind of water the lake trout like, and in what temperature they spend their time.
"This is huge for us. The (computer) tag is worth about $400. But it’s the data inside that’s the most valuable," Mattes said.
The lake trout originally were caught in nets in Traverse Bay, on the east side of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan.
They were anesthetized, and then fish surgeons made a small incision in each fish’s belly near their stomachs. Computers were placed inside, and the fish were sutured and released into recovery tanks until the anesthetic wore off. Then they were set free in the lake.
So far, five trout have been caught and returned by commercial netters and three by sport anglers like Mattson.
Most have been caught within five miles of where they originally were netted, but one fish swam all the way to Ontario.
Mattson’s fish swam more than 150 miles – to the western end of Lake Superior, sometimes reaching depths of 400 feet.
"We know they move around in the lake. But this is unusual. We really don’t know why it came this far," Mattes said.
The project was funded with a $55,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
As for Mattson, he ate the fish before realizing he was supposed to return the whole thing to Mattes. Mattson still got a $100 reward for returning the computer.