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Marine News from the Great Lakes

State rears and stocks muskellunge to create fishing opportunities throughout Michigan

Published: Wednesday, November 25, 2015

 

DNR employee hold a muskellunge fingerlingThe Department of Natural Resources recently stocked 27,449 muskellunge fingerlings into 17 water bodies located throughout the state, in an effort to further enhance Michigan’s world-class fisheries.

Michigan is home to two strains of naturally producing muskellunge: Great Lakes and northern. The DNR has reared muskellunge in its hatcheries since the 1950s. While the hatchery program initially focused on the northern muskellunge strain, it has shifted focus in recent years to the Great Lakes strain, as it is native to Michigan and widely distributed in water bodies throughout the Lower Peninsula and eastern region of the Upper Peninsula.

Since 2011 the DNR has collected eggs and milt (sperm) from adult muskellunge in the Lake St. Clair/Detroit River system. The offspring then are reared at Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery in Mattawan. This hatchery is the only facility in the state currently capable of rearing this species. After hatching, the muskellunge are started in hatchery tanks and then transferred to outside ponds after a few months for grow-out.

Historically, muskellunge were reared by stocking fry in ponds and allowing them to grow by eating natural food, similar to how the DNR currently rears walleye. Because of the highly cannibalistic nature of muskellunge, the success of these rearing efforts was highly variable and often produced low numbers. Current rearing efforts at Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery produce a much higher survival rate and more stable, predictable production.

“We’re making great headway in our efforts to increase muskellunge fishing opportunities for anglers,” said DNR fisheries biologist Matt Hughes, who oversees the rearing program at Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery. “With time and experience, we’ve stabilized and increased production so more and more water bodies can be stocked.”

Below is a chart of the water bodies stocked this fall with 9-inch-long muskellunge.

Water Body

County

Number Stocked

Austin Lake

Kalamazoo

1,450

Dana Lake

Delta

147

Grand River (120th Street)

Ottawa

687

Grand River (Indian Channel)

Ottawa

813

Hamlin Lake

Mason

7,671

Kingston Lake

Alger

150

Lake Besser

Alpena

588

Lake Diane

Hillsdale

425

McKeever Lake

Schoolcraft

210

Muskegon Lake

Muskegon

6,225

Otsego Lake

Otsego

2,958

Round Lake

Van Buren

280

Sanford Lake

Midland

1,875

Secord Lake

Gladwin

1,223

Smallwood Lake

Gladwin

348

Teal Lake

Marquette

699

Thornapple Lake

Barry

1,700

 

 

Total: 27,449


Due to extremely high survival during early rearing stages, an additional 79,948 fish averaging 1.3 inches in length were stocked in early July. Ottawa County’s Lake Macatawa received 49,972 fish, and Mona Lake in Muskegon County received 29,976 fish. These fish were surplus due to limited rearing capacity.

An additional 1,500 northern strain muskellunge were stocked in Bankson Lake (Van Buren County- 434 fish), Eagle Lake (Kalamazoo County-142 fish), Lake Hudson (Lenawee County- 502 fish) and Long Lake (St. Joseph County- 422 fish). These fish came from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as part of a cooperative agreement to trade Great Lakes strain muskellunge for northern strain muskellunge.


tags: Dept of Natural Resources, Fishing

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