Wisconsin and other states surrounding Lake Michigan have agreed to a new stocking strategy to continue the outstanding salmon and trout fishing anglers have enjoyed on the big pond for the last decade, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp announced today.

“We’ve agreed with other states to adjust stocking levels to assure that great fishing continues well into the future,” Stepp says. “Wisconsin is doing its fair share to balance the number of game fish predators with the available forage in the lake, which is the key to the success of the fishery.”

Stepp says DNR will work with the Lake Michigan Fisheries Forum to hold a meeting over the winter with Wisconsin anglers. “We want to listen to anglers and work with them to distribute Wisconsin fish in a way that’s fair and supports the great fishing so important to so many Lake Michigan communities.”

Under the lake-wide strategy, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan would stock 1.7 million Chinook salmon in Lake Michigan starting in 2013, down from 3.3 million.

Wisconsin DNR has agreed to stock at least 723,700 chinook, down 38 percent from the previous stocking level. The adjustment will be made primarily in chinook stocking numbers, but Wisconsin and the other states can substitute other species in future years.

The new stocking levels take into account a decreasing forage base and an increase in naturally reproduced Chinook from Michigan tributaries that contribute to the lake-wide fishery but compete with stocked fish for food, says Mike Staggs, DNR’s fisheries director.

“Most of the stocking adjustment is to offset increases in natural reproduction and lower forage abundance,” Staggs says. “We expect the stocking adjustment will mean that the remaining fish will show better survival, and that the resulting increase in forage abundance should result in faster growth and bigger fish for anglers to catch.”

Natural resource agencies from the four states and five tribes in Michigan came together two years ago when research showed a major decline in alewives, the primary forage fish for Lake Michigan trout and salmon, due to the invasion of zebra and quagga mussels.

The states worked with representatives from fishing clubs and other stakeholders and Michigan State researchers to develop new stocking options to better balance the forage base and number of predators. During those sessions and public meetings, the vast majority of stakeholders agreed on the need to adjust stocking to protect the forage species and ensure the long-term health of the Lake Michigan salmon and trout fishery, Staggs says.

Such stocking strategy adjustments in the past – in 1986, 1992, 1998 and 2006 — have resulted in phenomenal fishing in the last decade for trout and salmon in Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan, he says. Lake Michigan harvest data, stocking data, and more information about the stocking strategy can be found on the Lake Michigan Management Reports page of the DNR website.

Logo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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