Stream Restoration, Part 1: Collecting Baseline Info on Current Fish Populations

Photos and story by Mitch Lettow

Matthew Diana of the DNR, Fisheries Division, samples the fish community living in Tyden Creek at SWMLC's Hidden Pond Preserve in Barry County. Photo by Mitch Lettow.
Collecting fish samples in Tyden Creek | Mitch Lettow
How did people clean out dairy barns back in the 19th century?
One way was to divert a stream so that it could periodically flow through the barn and wash the crud away. It’s an ingenious solution but it also harms the stream’s aquatic life, and the impact may take decades to resolve. Just such a barn once stood near “Tyden Creek” at Hidden Pond Preserve in Barry County.

SWMLC will soon begin a major restoration project on Tyden Creek that will bring back some of its natural features.

So we wanted to get a baseline sample of the numbers and species of fish that are currently using the stream before beginning the work. SWMLC stewardship staff joined Matthew Diana of the DNR Fisheries Division earlier this week to sample the creek’s fish communities, collecting data that will help us to understand any future changes that are the result of the restoration work.
Using a backpack electroshocking unit, Mathew discharges a small electrical charge into the stream, which temporarily stuns the fish. The fish are then scooped up in a net, identified, counted, and released as soon as possible.
Blacknose Dace | Mitch Lettow
Brook Stickleback collected from Tyden Creek, Hidden Pond Preserve, Barry County. | Mitch Lettow

This small stream may not have held large game fish like bass or pike that most people are familiar with, but the dozens upon dozens of fish coming out of each section were evidence that it is full of life! Four species of “minnows” were caught throughout all sampling areas (creek chub, blacknose dace, mudminnow, and brook stickleback) but various species seemed to prefer different sections of the stream.

The results today show a healthy fish community in this small stream, but with room for improvement in the future.

Creek Chub collected in Tyden Creek, Hidden Pond Preserve, Barry, Co. | Mitch Lettow

Reviewing the restoration plan, Matthew was optimistic that species that are more selective in habitat (like brown trout or mottled sculpin) may be found in Tyden Creek with future samplings, or in other seasons.

SWMLC plans to continue sampling Tyden Creek in future years to measure the impact of the project and understand how restoration changes the fish community living there.