Lake Michigan Committee agrees to Chinook salmon cuts

The number of Chinook salmon stocked in Lake Michigan will be reduced by 1.6 million in 2013. Stocking cuts will likely be evaluated every three years to maintain a healthy balance between predatory fish and baitfish.

Earlier this year, fisheries managers and scientists from around Lake Michigan worked with MSU Extension to educate anglers regarding the potential for collapse of the lake’s salmon fishery and the forage base that supports it.  Managers developed four options that were shared with the public and sought input via an online survey. Results showed that the vast majority of anglers and conservationists were supportive of reducing Chinook salmon stocking, but that opinions regarding other species varied widely.  

In Wisconsin, anglers were particularly supportive of Option 4, which included a 10% reduction of coho salmon, steelhead, brown trout, and lake trout along with a 30% reduction in Chinook salmon stocking. In Michigan, anglers ranked Option 2 higher than others, calling for a 50% cut in Chinook stocking and no reduction for other species. 

A press release, issued August 27 by the Lake Michigan Committee (which includes managers from Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority), announces their plan to reduce lakewide stocking of Chinook salmon by half. Both Option 2 and Option 4 included a feedback policy that is incorporated into the committee’s decision. Their strategy is to review their decision at three-year intervals, with changes to future stocking rate based on the weight of returning salmon.

The weight of age-3 female Chinook salmon returning to Strawberry Creek weir in Wisconsin was chosen as the trigger for this feedback policy. If these mature salmon average less than 15.4 pounds, the feedback policy would call for an additional 30% reduction in Chinook salmon stocking. However, stocking would increase if average weight exceeds 19.8 pounds.

Although the decision announced today represents a consensus among management agencies regarding Chinook salmon stocking rates in Lake Michigan, authority to approve and implement stocking reductions rests with individual agencies. The tentative agreement calls for Michigan to reduce Chinook stocking by 1.1 million (67%) while Wisconsin will reduce Chinook stocking by 440,000 (39%). Illinois and Indiana stock far fewer fish and will make proportionally smaller cuts.

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