Michigan expands Great Lakes muskie stock

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A closer look at the muskie. Photo: Ohio Department of Natural Resources

By Edith Zhou

The muskie production program of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has turned a huge corner by stocking only Great Lakes muskies.

DNR’s Fish Production Section operates six large fish hatcheries, including the Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery in Mattawan which the muskie program belongs to.

Based on the department’s figures, hatcheries produce 13 million trout and salmon and 30 million walleye, muskie and sturgeon annually. That’s a total 600,000-700,000 pounds of fish a year stocked in the state’s public waters.

The department has raised muskellunge for stocking for decades but had always used northern muskies. This is the second year it produced strictly Great Lakes muskies.

Gary Whelan, the DNR fish production manager, said it is a turning point in the program

“This strain of muskellunge is native to most of Michigan. The northern muskellunge is native to only a small portion of the far western Upper Peninsula in the Wisconsin River drainage,” he said.

According to Whelan, Michigan is home to two species, the Great Lakes muskie and the northern muskie. The Great Lakes muskie is well established in Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River system in Southeast Michigan.

“Our Lake St. Clair raises the best and most muskies in the nation,” he said.

Matt Hughes, a fisheries biologist at Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery, said, “We want to rebuild our Great Lakes muskie numbers, so using this strain allows us to get them into more Michigan waters.”

He said there are fewer restrictions on where the state stock the Great Lakes muskie than northern muskie.

Will Schultz, the president of Michigan Muskie Alliance, said “The muskies fishing community is supportive of the new change.”

The alliance contributes both financially and with volunteer labor at the hatchery.

Whelan said that the program won’t change the eco-balance.

“We have about a $1.5-$4 billion recreational fishery and $30 million commercial fishery each year. It costs us some money to raise the fish, but this is a kind of high-value fish, and hopefully these muskies can attract more anglers coming to our state,” he said.

3 thoughts on “Michigan expands Great Lakes muskie stock

  1. You’re right different Tom, instead of stocking walleye in historic walleye lakes, the DNR is dumping muskies in them. The current fishing regs read a 42″ size limit and a daily limit of 1. Not much chance to get shore lunch let alone dinner. This is part of the non-consumptive philosophy that permeates Fish Div., fishing for fun. Just how do they think they will survive with declining license sales?

  2. The unfortunate part is that the Michigan DNR persists in stocking smaller inland lakes (West Twin and Bear Lakes to name two) and these fish have devastated Perch fishing in both of those lakes. Great for the few people that fish for Muskie but too bad for the rest of us.

  3. The 2012 startup of this Great Lakes Spotted muskellunge restoration program took a couple decades to finally get going. There were major bumps in the road to progress by diseases such as muskie pox and VHS as well as funding setting backs for both Michigan and Wisconsin DNR with their cooperative Great Lakes GLS muskellunge programs. The GLS muskellunge reintroduction of native fish will be a big sport and tourism plus to the AOC/RAPs drowned river-mouth Muskegon & White Lakes as well as all other connecting waters to the Great Lakes.

    The major challenges for the future are maintaining present muskie culture funding and the need for expanded hatchery space, culture ponds, and more food. Unfortunately there are right-wing GLS muskie fisher hypocrites in Michigan that support the RTW politicians to screw the state DNR fishery staff as well as to continually sabotage the DNR, DEQ, natural resources, trust funding for grants, and public access. Thus, Michigan could not apply for the recent GLRI grants to expand our hatchery needs for the walleye and muskellunge programs, thanks to the Republican Snyder administration.

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