Fish Lake Michigan From The Port of Ludington !

What will the Lake Michigan salmon stocking cut mean for Michigan anglers? Mass marking of Chinook salmon sheds new light on the relative importance of Chinook salmon stocked in Michigan. Reposted....

  • By Gary Smith
  • 31 Oct, 2016
Posted on   October 27, 2016   by   Dan O'Keefe , Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Sea Grant

This year marks the 50th   anniversary of the modern Great Lakes salmon stocking program. When coho and Chinook salmon were first planted in the Great Lakes the results were spectacular. A nuisance invader (the alewife) became the prey of choice for salmon and fueled the birth of a world-class sport fishery.

Fifty years later we are struggling to adapt to the influence of new invaders, particularly quagga mussels and round gobies. Fishery managers also must adapt to the rising importance of natural reproduction, which now accounts for the majority of Chinook salmon in Lake Michigan. On top of that, the experience of Lake Huron’s alewife/salmon collapse in 2004 serves as a constant reminder that stocking too many Chinook salmon on top of wild fish can lead to disaster for coastal communities.

With this in mind, state and tribal agencies of the   Lake Michigan Committee   decided to reduce the number of salmon and trout stocked in Lake Michigan. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently announced its   plan   to reduce Chinook salmon stocking by 230,000 (in addition to reducing lake trout by 270,000 and cutting coho salmon stocking by 96,000).

Public reaction to Chinook salmon cuts in Michigan has been mixed, with a narrow margin of support from groups like the Lake Michigan Citizen’s Fishery Advisory Committee and Michigan Steelheaders (MSSFA) and opposition from Michigan Charter Boat Association and the newly-formed Great Lakes Salmon Initiative. What will the decision really mean for anglers?

Michigan stocking sites contribute little to Chinook catches

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Great Lakes Fish Tag and Recovery Laboratory, only 7% of Chinook salmon caught in Michigan waters during the open-water fishery (April – September, 2014 – 2015) were stocked in Michigan waters of Lake Michigan (see figure). Roughly 7 out of 10 Chinook salmon caught in Michigan waters of Lake Michigan were wild, and Wisconsin and Lake Huron plants contributed more than local stocking efforts.

For Michigan anglers, this means that Michigan DNR’s 46% reduction in Chinook salmon stocking absolutely will not cause a 46% reduction in open water Chinook catches. After all, the vast majority of fish being caught by Michigan anglers are not Michigan-stocked fish ( see factsheet for full details and results for other states ).

Fewer stocked salmon does not necessarily mean fewer salmon in the lake

According to the Michigan and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, about 6.8 million untagged/un-fin-clipped Chinook salmon smolts recruited to the population in Lake Michigan in 2012. While they believe that most of these unmarked fish were from wild, natural reproduction in Lake Michigan tributaries some did come from natural reproduction in Lake Huron tributaries and other sources. A small number of unmarked Chinook salmon smolts came from   Salmon in the Classroom stockings   (<10,000 unmarked fish) and from private hatchery stockings in Ontario waters of Lake Huron (214,352 unmarked fish). Even if all of these unmarked stocked fish migrated into Lake Michigan, the estimate of wild smolts recruiting to Lake Michigan in 2012 would be in the neighborhood of 6.6 million.  

In 2013, wild reproduction fell dramatically to around 1.4 million smolts. Reasons are not entirely clear but, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, may have been related to low water levels and warm water temperatures during the fall spawning migration that produced those smolts. Other possible reasons include low survival due to an abnormally cold and prolonged winter, slow growth and high mortality of young salmon after hatching, and/or low numbers of alewife to feed on once young Chinook salmon entered Lake Michigan.

One way or another, natural reproduction was dismal in 2013 and remained below average in 2014 (2.9 million smolts). The poor fishing many Michigan anglers experienced in 2015 and 2016 was due, in part, to these weak wild year-classes.

The overwhelming influence of natural reproduction

Back in the early days, fishery managers could control the number of Chinook salmon in Lake Michigan through stocking. If states stocked 2 million Chinooks, then that was it — nothing more to account for, no more mouths to feed.

Now fishery managers have much less control over Chinook salmon numbers. Lake Michigan stocking (from all states) is being reduced from 1.80 million in 2016 to 1.35 million Chinook salmon smolts in 2017. Wild spawning salmon produce around 4.5 million smolts on average, but this wild production can range from 1.4 million smolts to over 6.6 million smolts. This is a lot of variation!

To put stocking into perspective, the total number of Chinook smolts (stocked + wild) produced in 2017 is expected to be around 5.85 million based on an average year of natural reproduction. However, if natural reproduction is poor this could be as low as 2.75 million. If natural reproduction is high, which is a distinct possibility, we could have upwards of 7.95 million smolts entering Lake Michigan in 2017. In short, the impact of the stocking cut amounts to very little in comparison to this tremendous variation in wild fish.

For anglers, the bottom line is that there is good reason to expect the number of Chinook salmon in Lake Michigan to increase or remain steady despite the recent stocking reduction. If salmon numbers do dramatically increase, as they might due to natural reproduction, the result could be a permanent collapse of alewife and salmon.

If natural reproduction remains near recent lows, the worst-case scenario for anglers would be a slight reduction in the number of salmon over the short term. In reality, this worst-case scenario would also be the best-case scenario in terms of ensuring the long term viability of the salmon fishery because it would provide a better chance of alewife recovery.

For better or worse, the future will be determined in large part by wild fish.

Michigan Sea Grant  helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its   MSU   Extension , Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant  network of 33 university-based programs.

This article was published by   Michigan State University Extension . For more information, visit . To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit . To contact an expert in your area, visit , or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

Fishing Report - RodMaster Fishing Charters

By Gary Smith 27 Jun, 2017
Thank you Jamison, Greg, Zach, Bob, & Manya for joining us this weekend. Too rough to fish the AM.. so we fished from 12 to 5 PM.
Again 80 to 100 fow is loaded with bait and prey fish. We managed to entice 17 bites and get 12 in the net ! Bites came on low and high divers bouncing bottom with Dreamweaver 8 inch spindoctors in chrome, twoface, and Dark green all with Whirligigs in uv lime, uv green, chrome blue dots, greasey chicken wing dodger/ orange spin n glo, 350 copper with 8 inch Dreamweaver uv fishscale spindoctor / Whirligig, Downrigger down 69 ft with Dreamweaver 3 days at sea spoon on freeslider and Downrigger bouncing bottom with 8 Inch NBK spindoctor / uv lime Whirligig.
By Gary Smith 27 Jun, 2017
Fishing Report 6-23 PM
Thank you Jimmy, DJ ,Lilly and Kevin for joining use this evening.  
Out of 8 bites we put 6 fish in the box. Bites were on wire divers bouncing bottom with 8 in chrome spindoctor / uv lime green Whirligig and chicken wing dodger / orange spin n glo, Downrigger at bottom with 8 inch Dreamweaver NBK spindoctor / uv green Whirligig and Downrigger at 64 with moonshine flounder pounder. Fished from 60 to 100 fow.
By Gary Smith 27 Jun, 2017
Fish on for Freedom today big thanks to Veteran and Captain Joe Marion and first mate Jay Funk for treating veterans Michael, Larry AND Gary to an awesome fishing experience. This crew boated 12 fish. Thank you veterans for all you have done
By Gary Smith 27 Jun, 2017
Fish on for Freedom today Captain Gary was aboard Lie a lot charters with Captain Mike Darke . Awesome trip with veterans Nicole, Jon, Ron, Stan, and Greg. The crew boated 19 fish! Thank you for your service!
By Gary Smith 22 Jun, 2017
An awesome Day On The Water with Pam, Levi, Carlie, Ben and Kylee. They boated 9 fish of the 17 that bit. Biggest was Levis 17 lb 3 oz Lake Trout. We fished 80 to 130 fow slightly north of harbor.
Bites came on wire divers bouncing bottom with 8 inch Dreamweaver Spindoctors in chrome, mountain dew, twoface, NBK / Whirligigs, and chicken wing tin can with orange spin n glow. Downrigger bouncing bottom with two face spindoctor / Whirligig. Downrigger down 70 ft with Dreamweaver Super Slim candy crush on freeslider.
By Gary Smith 22 Jun, 2017
Those BIG Lake Trout are cruising the area... 17 lbs 3 ozs.... Levi's first Lake Michigan Fish !
By Gary Smith 22 Jun, 2017
Good time fishing with the Beste team today.. thank you guys for joining us! The wind and waves didn't cooperate with us and we had lines in the water only 45 minutes. .. long enough to boat 3 lake trout. Bites came on Dreamweaver 8 inch spindoctors in chrome / UV lime Whirligig , Two Face / UV lime Whirligig on low wires bouncing bottom and a silver green stinger stacked 6 feet above Downrigg ball bouncing bottom.
By Gary Smith 22 Jun, 2017
Fishing report June 19
Thank you Matt 1, Matt 2 and Adam for joining us today! Fishing....bite ... was steady and we boated 13 of the 20 bites we had for a nice mix of lake trout and salmon. Fished in 96 to 110 fow.. Marked a fair amount of bait. Our bites came on Dreamweaver 8 inch spindoctors chrome, green NBK, and two face with UV lime green Whirligigs and chrome lime green Whirligig bouncing on bottom with chute rigger and low divers, high divers out 240 Kevins girlfriend spindoctor with green mile meatrig and high diver out 180 with blue bubble spindoctor / blue bubble fly, Downrigger down 80 with green jeans moonshine regular spoon, 400 copper / green echip paddle / blue Howie fly.
By Gary Smith 22 Jun, 2017
Fishing report for June 16
Thank you Don, Don, Russ, AJ and Matt for a memorable experience today!  
We fished slightly north today in 150 to 250 fow. Fish were finicky we had 10 bites and 6 fish. Bites came on Downrigger 40 ft down on free slider with Wonderbread dreamweaver spoon, 300 copper with Happy meal mag moonshine, 250 copper with orange / green Proking, low wire out 200 ft chrome 8 in spindoctor / UV kelly green Whirligig, low wire 240 ft with 10 in Dreamweaver Netminder spindoctor / blue fairways meat rig, Downrigger 120 ft with NBK green 8 in spindoctor / UV lime green Whirligig.
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