Lake Michigan anglers respond to proposed salmon stocking reductions

Lake managers agree that stocking reductions are necessary to attain a better balance between gamefish and baitfish. Public support for reduced stocking is high, but opinions are mixed regarding which species should be cut and the magnitude of reductions.

Fisheries managers around Lake Michigan now face a difficult dilemma. The lake’s world-class sport fishing for five salmon and trout species is in jeopardy. In short, the production of baitfish in the lake may not be high enough or consistent enough to maintain the number of predatory gamefish.   

As a result, managers and scientists worked with stakeholders from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin to develop and evaluate options for decreasing the number of salmon and/or trout stocked into Lake Michigan on an annual basis. Four options were shared at a public meeting on April 14, 2012.

An online survey was developed to gauge reactions to proposed stocking reductions. Survey submissions were accepted through May 18, and 580 people responded.

Survey respondents were asked to rate their level of comfort with each of the proposed options on a scale of one to five with five being the highest. Options were also ranked from best to worst.  Option 1 was the lowest rated by respondents in all four states. Reactions to other options were mixed, with ratings averaging close to neutral (3.00) for each. Option 4 had a slightly higher average rating, but reactions to Option 4 were more polarized due to the inclusion of lake trout stocking reductions. 

  • OPTION 1: 50% reduction in Chinook salmon stocking for 2013.
    • Average Rating:  FAIR (1.97)
    • Ranking: 69% WORST, 11% BEST
  • OPTION 2: 50% reduction in Chinook salmon stocking for 2013; automatically adjust stocking in future based on feedback policy.
    • Average Rating: between FAIR and NEUTRAL (2.61)
    • Ranking: 2% WORST, 20% BEST
  • OPTION 3: 30% reduction in Chinook salmon stocking and 10% reduction in coho salmon, steelhead,and brown trout stocking for 2013; automatically adjust stocking in future based on feedback policy.
    • Average Rating: NEUTRAL (2.96)
    • Ranking: 8% WORST, 15% BEST
  • OPTION 4: 30% reduction in Chinook salmon stocking and 10% reduction in coho salmon, steelhead,brown trout, and lake trout stocking for 2013; automatically adjust stocking in future based on feedback policy.
    • Average Rating: between NEUTRAL and GOOD (3.28)
    • Ranking: 20% WORST, 54% BEST

A majority (55%) of people who took the survey did not feel the four options could be improved upon, but 15% proposed greater reductions in stocking and 18% proposed lesser reductions in stocking. With five species being considered and a wide range of opinions expressed there is not a clear-cut consensus among stakeholders regarding the perfect option.  However, 97% of respondents agreed that Chinook salmon stocking should be reduced to some extent. For full details see the fact sheet posted on the Michigan Sea Grant web site.

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