DNR to reduce stocking of Chinook salmon
Chinook salmon (Courtesy photo/Michigan Department of Natural Resources / January 3, 2013)
Until now, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana state agencies stocked 3.3 million Chinook salmon fingerlings in Lake Michigan, according to the DNR. Last year in Michigan, the DNR stocked 1,688,500 fingerlings.
Now, the state will stock just 559,000 salmon.
Some areas of Lake Michigan will take a harder hit than others, said Dave Clapp, station manager of the Charlevoix Fisheries Research Station. Medusa Creek in Charlevoix will take a 67.3 percent hit while the Grand River near Grand Rapids will receive no Chinook salmon stocking whatsoever, though it is stocked with steelhead and coho salmon. Fairport in the Upper Peninsula will also receive no stocked Chinook salmon.
Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana will take a smaller hit. That's because those states have less natural reproduction than Michigan, said Clapp.
A collapse of the chinook salmon fishery in Lake Huron spurred the decision.
"The decline (in Lake Huron) happened over a couple of years, around 2003. 2004 was the dramatic drop, but none of these things happen over just one year," said Clapp.
The Huron fishery collapsed mainly because of an imbalance of the predator-prey relationship. There were too many salmon for their primary food base — alewives, which can comprise up to 90 percent of a salmon's diet, though Clapp said there's some evidence that invasives such as round gobies are creeping into the predator fish's diet.
Adding to the numbers of fish in Huron was that there appeared to be "really huge amounts of natural reproduction, mostly on the Canadian side of the lake," said Clapp.
By 2010, charter fisheries reported less than 0.2 fish caught per trip on Lake Huron, while charter fisheries reported 1-2 fish caught per trip on Lake Michigan, according to the DNR.
The DNR wanted to avoid a similar collapse in Lake Michigan waters. Throughout 2011 and 2012, the organization hosted public meetings to determine how the stocking should be cut.
"Everybody didn't get exactly what they wanted, but I think they're reasonably happy," said Clapp.