Marine News from the Great Lakes

State rears and stocks muskellunge to create fishing opportunities throughout Michigan

Published: Tuesday, December 2, 2014


The Department of Natural Resources recently finished stocking 36,228 muskellunge fingerlings into 21 water bodies located throughout the state in an effort to enhance Michigan’s fisheries. 

Michigan is home to two strains of naturally producing muskellunge, Great Lakes and northern. The DNR has been rearing 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 adult muskellunge in the Lake St. Clair/Detroit River system for eggs and milt (sperm) and then rears the young at Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery in Mattawan. This hatchery is the only facility in the state currently capable of rearing this species. The muskellunge are reared in hatchery tanks and then transferred to outside ponds after a few months. 

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 varied 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 8- to 9-inch-long muskellunge. A historic milestone was passed this year as Great Lakes muskellunge were stocked in Little Bay de Noc of Lake Michigan. This is the first effort to restore this strain to its native waters.

Water Body County Number Stocked
Belleville Lake Wayne 1,905
Big Bear Otsego 435
Big Island Lake Schoolcraft 195
Budd Lake Clare 263
Cooke Dam Pond Iosco 2,913
Grand River (Bruce's Bayou) Ottawa 750
Grand River (Indian Channel) Ottawa 750
Lake Macatawa Ottawa 2,670
Lake Margrethe Crawford 1,450
Little Bay de Noc Delta 5,000
Lake Winyah Alpena 2,295
Mona Lake Muskegon 1,043
Muskegon Lake Muskegon 6,225
Muskegon River (Leota Bridge) Clare 620
Muskegon River (M-55 Bridge) Missaukee 620
Ninth Street Impoundment (Lake Besser) Alpena 588
North Manistique (Round Lake) Luce 2,002
Swan Lake Iron 248
Teal Lake Marquette 699
Thornapple Barry 1,700
White Lake Muskegon 3,857
    Total: 36,228

Due to extremely high survival during early rearing stages, an additional 6,300 fish averaging 3 inches in length were stocked in the Grand River (Lloyd Bayou and 120th Street). These fish were surplus due to limited rearing capacity and stocked in late August. An additional 1,510 northern strain muskellunge were stocked in Chicagon Lake (Iron County – 1,210 fish) and Craig Lake (Baraga County – 300 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. 

For even more information on the DNR’s fish-stocking efforts, check out the Fish Stocking Database  

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to

tags: Dept of Natural Resources, Fishing


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