The Michigan Outdoor Writer’s Association inducted one new member into the Michigan Outdoor Hall of Fame during the annual summer conference at Thompsonville, Michigan. This sole inductee is truly an icon to towns and anglers throughout our state, the Midwest and the entire country. The 2019 inductee is Dr. Howard A. Tanner.
In 1964, as the newly appointed chief of the Michigan Department of Conservation Fisheries Division, Dr. Tanner was challenged by then director Ralph McMullen to, “Do something and make it spectacular.” No one could truly understand just how spectacular his work would be. Dr. Howard A. Tanner brought salmon to the Great Lakes and changed the ecosystem forever. He is now widely known as the father of the Great Lakes salmon fishery.
A World War II veteran, Dr. Tanner returned home to continue his education and enrolled at Michigan State College pursuing a degree in Zoology with a specialty in fisheries. Dr. Tanner would receive his Ph.D. in 1952 and began a 12-year stint at Colorado State University as a teacher in the Fish Unit, teaching undergrads how to become fisheries biologists. He returned to Michigan in 1964 due to a shake-up in Michigan’s Conservation Department ordered by Governor George Romney. The Conservation Department would be completely overhauled to include an emphasis on the Great Lakes, which had until this point been for the most part under-managed. Dr. Tanner’s decision to bring salmon to the Great Lakes is now called, “the most significant biomanipulation program in the history of fisheries management.”
Little did he know the actual impact of his efforts to release that first Coho into the Platte River on April 2, 1966. Salmon can now be caught from Lake Superior to Lake Ontario and are responsible for approximately a seven billion dollar industry.
It has changed many lives, not just in Michigan but throughout all of the Great Lakes states and Ontario.
As if this wasn’t enough, Dr. Tanner also had a very large part in dealing with mercury contamination and convincing then Governor Milliken and his cabinet to ban PCBs in Michigan. Michigan was the first state in the country to ban this harmful chemical. He has been a tremendous advocate for the Great Lakes and has also been an active member of the Michigan Resource Stewards, an advocacy group formed by former state environmental authorities which has also just been named to MUCC’s Conservation Hall of Fame.
At 95 years young, Dr. Tanner is still doing some speaking engagements and was present for his induction into the Michigan Outdoor Hall of Fame. He is a wonderful storyteller and spoke of catching his first brook trout in 1926 and being hooked on fishing since. For those interested he has recently finished a book telling his story of this great accomplishment. The book, named Something Spectacular My Great Lakes Salmon Story, is available through Michigan State University Press and Amazon. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the sale of the book are being directed to Michigan State University’s Project Fish program, which teaches elementary children the life cycle of salmon and funds field trips to local areas to fish. Dr. Howard Tanner is truly an inspiration and an easy choice for the Michigan Outdoor Hall of Fame.
The Michigan Outdoor Hall of Fame is located at the DNR’s Carl T. Johnson Education Center in Cadillac, Michigan. This year’s sponsor of the Hall of Fame was Eppinger Dardevle.