Little impact for Michigan anglers expected from new Lake Michigan fish-stocking levels
Published: Friday, November 11, 2016
After significant negotiations with the other members of the Lake Michigan Committee (LMC) – which cooperatively manages fish populations in the lake – the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has finalized its salmon and trout stocking levels.
With the new stocking levels, the DNR seeks to protect the ecology of the lake by striking the right balance between predator and prey fish, while also protecting a diverse fishery. The new levels will begin in 2017 and be completed in 2018. The five-member Lake Michigan Committee comprises all state management agencies (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin) that border Lake Michigan and the Chippewa-Ottawa Resource Authority. Recommendations from the committee represent the consensus of its members.
Under the lakewide agreement, stocking levels of salmon and trout from all state management agencies will be reduced by 1.77 million fish by 2018. This represents a 17-percent reduction from the average numbers stocked lakewide since 2013. Each state contributed to the stocking reduction to varying degrees to achieve the desired result across the lake.
Michigan anglers are not expected to see a significant impact from the new stocking levels. Over 70 percent of Chinook salmon harvested by Michigan anglers are wild and hatched in Michigan rivers. Of the stocked fish caught by Michigan anglers, the majority come from neighboring Wisconsin, which will maintain its Chinook salmon stocking at current levels.
Compared with other Lake Michigan Committee member states, Michigan made the smallest reduction in its overall stocking.
- Michigan will reduce lake trout by 270,000 fish, Chinook salmon by 230,000 fish and Coho salmon by 96,000 fish. These reductions represent 11 percent of all salmon and trout stocked by the DNR in Lake Michigan. In response to angler concerns about salmon stocking in particular, Michigan opted to cut fewer Chinook salmon than initially planned. The state originally had proposed cutting 360,000 Chinook only.
- Illinois will reduce 76,000 Chinook salmon and 4,000 lake trout (15 percent of all Illinois stocking).
- Indiana will reduce 123,000 Chinook salmon and 120,000 lake trout (21 percent of all Indiana stocking).
- Wisconsin will reduce its entire fish-stocking allocation by 25 percent, including a minimum of 517,000 lake trout and 350,000 brown trout. Wisconsin will continue to work with its stakeholders to refine its final reduction strategy.
“Fish don’t know borders or boundaries, so it is critical that we work together as states toward a lakewide solution,” said Jay Wesley, Lake Michigan Basin coordinator for the Michigan DNR and chair of the LMC. “The science solidly points to the need for change. These changes will help us achieve the important goal of a better balance of predator and prey. We will continue to annually monitor fish populations in the lake. The Lake Michigan Committee reviews this information annually and would recommend increasing stocking levels in the future if conditions are favorable.”
Implementing this plan will take two years. Anglers may begin to see full effects of these actions in three to four years.
“The strategy now being deployed recognizes angler concerns throughout the basin, while seeking to maintain a vital fishery,” said Michigan DNR Fisheries Chief Jim Dexter. “The Michigan DNR would not support a strategy that knowingly and substantially increases the risk of the fishery collapsing.”
Dexter said that reducing salmon and trout stocking levels illustrates a shared commitment to protection of Lake Michigan’s valuable fishery, even as the lake’s ecosystem continues to shift quickly. Reduced food availability for prey fish, driven primarily by invasive mussels, has contributed to extensive shifts throughout the entire food web.
“Michigan citizens attach significant value to our Great Lakes and want to keep them strong and diverse,” said Dexter. “We at the DNR are committed to making sure there are abundant fish for this generation and for the next.”
Learn more about the changing ecology of Lake Michigan and its impact on salmon by watching a video on YouTube.