DNR release 12-13-11
Biologists seek feedback on Lake Michigan salmon stocking
MADISON -- Five years after cutting the number of chinook stocked in Lake Michigan by 25 percent, Wisconsin and three other states are reviewing if the reduction worked and encouraging anglers to weigh in.
"We cut the lake-wide stocking quite a bit five years ago to better balance the trout and salmon out there with the available food supply. We said at that time we'd review how it worked," says Bill Horns, Great Lakes fisheries specialist for the Department of Natural Resources.
"Anglers report that the chinook and coho they caught in 2011 were big and robust, so we're not hearing a lot of concern from anglers, but we want to follow through on the promise we made to revisit the issue."
Horns invites anglers to review information on the web about the Lake Michigan Stocking Strategies workshops and to email him at William.Horns@Wisconsin.gov
or call at (608) 266-8782 with their feedback on how the stocking reductions worked and suggestions to guide future trout and salmon stocking on Lake Michigan.
Anglers also can attend a Lake Michigan Stocking Strategies conference being planned for next summer. Stocking decisions for 2013 and beyond will be based on the data presented and discussed at that public conference.
"So far, we've had a good cross-section of the angling public represented in limited workshops to scope out the process," says Brad Eggold, who supervises DNR's southern Lake Michigan fisheries team. "Now we want to reach out to more anglers to help us get ready for the public meeting this summer."
Fishing club reps help shape summer stocking meeting
Representatives from fishing groups across the Great Lakes region have met with fish biologists from Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois to formally launch the review of salmon and trout stocking policy in Lake Michigan. They are discussing the process, the information needed, and stocking options for Michigan State's Quantitative Fisheries Center staff to run through computer models to see how the different scenarios would affect fish and forage populations.
Fishing club representatives present at the earlier workshops included Duane Nadolski, a member of the Ozaukee Great Lakes Sport Fishermen chapter and also a member of the Wisconsin Federation of Great Lakes Sport Fishing Club; John Hansen, a member of the Milwaukee Great Lakes Sport Fishermen chapter and Racine Salmon Unlimited, and Todd Pollesch, who is Wisconsin's sport fish advisor to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. Mark Hassenburg, a member of the Kenosha Great Lakes Sport Fishermen chapter and Henry Koltz of the Southeast Chapter of Trout Unlimited, are expected to also participate in the final workshop in late January to finalize options and presentations for the summer conference.
Stocking reduction the "right move at the right time"
DNR fish biologists believe the lake-wide reduction was successful in its goal of assuring the stability of the salmon forage base, especially alewives. While the lake-wide stocking reduction was 25 percent, most of the reduction was in Michigan, where there's been good natural reproduction. But Wisconsin also sliced its stocking by 21 percent starting in 2006, Horns says.
"We think the reduction was the right move at the right time, especially when we look at what's happened in Lake Huron," he says. "Today, the chinook fishery of Lake Huron has collapsed, while Lake Michigan remains strong."
In Lake Huron, naturally reproduced chinook flooded the system in the early years of this decade and depleted the alewife population. The problem was exacerbated by the invasion and proliferation of quagga mussels, which started changing the lake ecosystem and contributed to the alewife decline there, he says.
Wisconsin anglers' reports of catching bigger, more robust fish were backed up by the fish that turned up in DNR egg collection facilities this fall. Both the number and size of fish was up.