Some years back, when Michigan’s Chinook salmon program was in its greatest glory, some anglers suggested the Department of Natural Resources abandon raising the smaller, less spectacular coho salmon and put more emphasis on the kings. The DNR demurred, preferring a multispecies approach.
It appears to have been a wise strategy; Chinook salmon populations are down significantly, largely because of stocking cuts necessitated by a diminishing alewife population in Lake Michigan.
Chinooks depend almost entirely on alewives for their diet. Cohos are more adaptable. As a result, the coho population remains strong. It helped fill out the catch this past summer, as there were fewer Chinooks available to anglers.
Now, the DNR stocks nearly as many coho salmon as Chinooks. A decade ago, it was a quarter as many.
None of this was lost with the DNR crew this fall as they took coho eggs at Platte River State Fish Hatchery near Honor.
“This is the birthplace of Michigan salmon, the only coho salmon facility we have,” said Aaron Switzer, the supervisor for all three of the northern Lower Peninsula’s fish hatcheries. “This is where we put them when they first came here, this is where we get the best returns, and this is the best place for a rearing facility.
“The Platte River hatchery is perfect for salmon rearing,” Switzer said. “The water doesn’t get too warm. It does get cold in the winter – we’ve got to heat the water in winter – but we get good growth and we can predict when a lot of the intensive fish-culture work will take place.”
To view a great historical story and the life cycle of a coho click on this link: