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Michelson Discusses Freshwater Fish of New England

Aug 04, 2017 07:00AM ● By Pamela Johnson

Michelson (right) with Jonathan Feng-wu (left) and avid questioner/fisherman Jojo Lui, sons of Elaine Feng-wu; the family lives in Franklin.

story & photo by Marjorie Turner Hollman, Contributing Writer

Bob Michelson, an experienced photographer, has spent the past thirty years diving and taking photographs of fish and other subjects. On July 17, he shared with a Bellingham Library audience only a small sample of his stunning photos of multiple species of freshwater fish, both native and invasive, that are found throughout New England.

Michelson clearly has a passion for his work and is knowledgeable not only about fish identification but also about spawning behaviors, how to spot  spawning fish, and when a person is most likely to observe these annual efforts of fish to reproduce.

“I feel bad for my wife,” Michelson noted. “I dive in the craziest places and she doesn’t swim.” But clearly Michelson’s wife is a committed partner. She helps him scan streams they visit, hoping to spot typical spawning behavior that they both have learned to look for. He described taking multiple five-hour trips from their Braintree, MA, home to the New Hampshire lakes region, hoping to photograph breeding trout behavior.

On one trip, he’d found the perfect spot, the water was crystal clear, the water temperature was just right, but overnight, snow fell, chasing the fish back into warmer lakes. Yet another fruitless trip, but they persisted. The last trip they took, at the very end of when it was reasonable to find spawning trout, his wife was the one who called him over to where trout were spawning.

Those who attended the program at the library were able to enjoy the multiple photos Michelson obtained that day. We learned of the exact steps each fish must execute to lay the eggs and assure that they will be fertilized. When sharing the photos of these developing eggs, Michelson often grabbed a pencil to illustrate the size of the eggs, which appeared quite large on the screen in the library community room. “These eggs here are actually the size of a pencil point,” Michelson said.

Not only a skilled photographer, NIchelson is also an entertaining speaker and a patient teacher. One young boy attending the library’s program had clearly been reading about fish, had gone fishing, and was filled with questions. Michelson answered his multiple questions kindly while keeping the presentation moving.

Part of the presentation went into the difference between native and invasive species of fish, with stunning photographs of both types. Species such as brown trout do not occur naturally in New England, but have been introduced. “Brown trout occur naturally only in the American South,” Michelson explained. “But they have been introduced in this area because they do well in warm, polluted rivers.”

Michelson shared photos of anadromous fish (fish that migrate from salt water to fresh water to spawn) and explained the difference between these and catadromous fish (those that spawn in salt water, while living most of their lives in fresh water).

He often visits local U.S. Fish and Wildlife fish hatcheries, including the one most local to Bellingham, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife’s National Fish Hatchery in North Attleboro. He noted that the hatchery in North Attleboro is working to restore American shad to the Charles River as well as the Ten Mile River (Plainville, North Attleboro, Attleboro area), and explained that over one hundred years of effort to restore Atlantic salmon to local waterways had yielded no measureable results, so resources have recently shifted to restoring shad to our local rivers.

Michelson has over 15,000 photos of fish on his website, so if you missed his presentation, visit to enjoy some of the stunning views of fish, both saltwater and freshwater varieties. There are multiple other categories of natural history photos to enjoy at this site as well.

Thanks to the Bellingham Public Library for providing this opportunity to learn about our waterways and what’s just below the surface. Thanks to Bob Michelson for giving us a peek under the surface. This program was part of the Bellingham Library’s participation in ”Make Public Libraries Science Resource Centers in Their Communities,” an institute of Museum and Library Services grant program administered through Cornerstones of Science. The three areas of science focused on by the Bellingham Library through this grant are water resources, recycling, and alternative energy.






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