The Michigan Department of Natural Resources plans to reduce Chinook salmon stocking in Lake Huron by more than half in 2012, compared to 2011 levels. The DNR plans to stock 693,000 spring Chinook fingerlings in 2012, down from almost 1.5 million stocked in 2011, because of poor return and harvest of stocked Chinooks.
“Recreational harvest of Chinook salmon has virtually vanished in the southern two-thirds of Lake Huron,” said acting DNR Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter. “It’s obvious the forage base is no longer available to support large numbers of Chinooks in Lake Huron.”
Analysis of recreational catch data shows only the northern portion of Lake Huron – where there is significant Canadian natural reproduction of Chinook salmon — continues to produce a viable recreational fishery.
Michigan will continue to stock Chinook salmon at Nunns Creek, Cheboygan River and Swan River in the northern Lake Huron watershed. All three stocking sites are within the boundaries of the 2000 Consent Decree with Tribes in the 1836 Treaty area. The DNR consulted with the Chippewa-Ottawa Resource Authority, the Lake Huron Citizen Fishery Advisory Committee, Ontario fisheries officials, and held three public meetings in the Lake Huron Basin before reaching this decision. Reduced Chinook salmon stocking is likely to continue for the immediate future.
“Angler harvest of stocked Chinook salmon has been at record low levels for the past few years. Poor returns of stocked fish and a collapse of prey fish populations throughout Lake Huron were key factors in the decision to suspend Chinook salmon plants in the southern two-thirds of Lake Huron,” said Todd Grischke, the DNR’s Lake Huron Basin coordinator. “We will continue to monitor biological data for the next six years and will make interim stocking adjustments as necessary.”
The DNR has committed to mass marking all Chinooks stocked in Lake Huron during the next three years to help biologists better understand the contributions of natural reproduction to the fishery. For more information on Chinook salmon, visit www.michigan.gov/fishing.