What makes a steelhead trout different from a rainbow trout?* For answers to this and other fishy questions, simply grab the Fish-o-pedia Pack. These new educational packs are filled with materials to help teach students and other groups about Great Lakes fish.

Each pack includes life-size vinyl cutouts of 12 native and non-native Great Lakes fish. The pack also contains cards filled with facts and figures about each species. Another resource included is the book, “The Life of the Great Lakes: A Guide to the Great Lakes Fishery,” by Michigan Sea Grant.

Get a sneak peek by downloading the Fish-o-pedia Guide.  The packs are available by request from your local Great Lakes Sea Grant program. In Wisconsin, the person to contact is Senior Special Librarian Anne Moser, or (609) 262-3069.

The packs were created by Wisconsin Sea Grant with Center for Great Lakes Literacy funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

*Answer: Although steelhead and rainbow trout are the same species, steelhead spend most of their time in one of the Great Lakes or the ocean as adults. Rainbows spend their time in rivers or streams.

New Video Series Gives a Voice to Coastal Stories

In songs, videos, novels or poems, nature can often take the role as the main character, a unifier of sorts around which activities and other characters revolve. That’s the case with a new video series from Wisconsin Sea Grant, Voices of the Coast.

The Great Lakes waters, tributaries and coastlines are the magnets drawing closer people with compelling stories to tell. From ship captains to sportsmen. From scientists to harbor masters. From folk artists to tribal elders. Through short videos, the series offers a way to showcase the people who shape the coast and whose lives are, in turn, shaped by the coast.

Sea Grant’s Digital Storyteller Bonnie Willison said, “When Senior Special Librarian Anne Moser first told me about George Schmidt and his esteemed decoys, I immediately knew he was someone I wanted to talk to for the Voices of the Coast series. As someone who has been carving decoys for more than 50 years, George had so many stories to share. His video is a great way to kick off Voices of the Coast, which will provide a unifying picture of the Great Lakes and Great Lakes coasts. I am also excited to keep expanding the series with, for example, stories from a Green Bay conservationist and two Milwaukee women building social justice around water.”

Uplifting is one way to describe the tone of “Voices of the Coast: George Schmidt,” Schmidt’s hand-carved wooden lake sturgeon decoys undoubtedly qualify as folk art, yet with a function.

Growing to more than six feet in length, lake sturgeon are the largest fish found in the Great Lakes. In many parts of the basin, they have disappeared due to overfishing, pollution and habitat loss. Thanks to tremendous conservation efforts, Wisconsin is one place they thrive. So much so that there is a legal harvest season in the state on tributary waterways in the winter.

Fishermen spearing these large fish have used Schmidt’s wooden decoys for years and his infectiously enthusiastic conversation about his craft and the camaraderie of the sport are on full display in the 5-minute video.

Schmidt’s declaration: “It’s kinda nice to leave a little something back to this Earth before you pass on. That’s the way I look at it, we’re either an asset or a deficit for having been born. I guess I’d rather be an asset,” will have you nodding in agreement that he is indeed an asset, and a fitting person to share his voice of the coast.

Find all the videos at

The Aquatic Sciences Center is the administrative home of the
University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute & University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute.

©2011 University of Wisconsin Board of Regents