Spring brings fish stocking, regulation changes

Fish stocking at Red Cedar River. Photo: Department of Natural Resources

Fish stocking at Red Cedar River. Photo: Department of Natural Resources

By Edith Zhou

This year’s fishing season is starting on the wheels of stocking trucks, new regulations and programs to attract more participants.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said its $9 million program is stocking 19 million fish – 370 tons – including eight trout and salmon species and four cool-water species, including walleye and muskellunge.

This year, DNR’s fish-stocking vehicles will travel nearly 138,000 miles to more than 700 spots around the state.

Christian LeSage, a biologist at DNR’s Fisheries Division, said that overall, locations and species don’t change much from year to year. However, some locations are not always stocked, and new places are added.

“Basically, stocking sites are changed if the site is difficult for our trucks or there is no longer public access, and environmental conditions have changed at the location – for example, the water temperature is determined to be too warm for trout,” he said.

LeSage said one of the biggest changes this year is that DNR is releasing fewer chinook salmon in Lake Michigan because the lake’s ecosystem is changing rapidly.

The state used to stock 3.3 million chinook annually in Lake Michigan but has cut the number by two-thirds since 2006. Under its plan, for example, the Manistee River is getting 68 percent fewer chinook than in 2006 and the Grand River is getting none.

The plan is to continue at the reduced levels through 2015.

LeSage said another big change is the increasing number of Atlantic salmon stocked in Lake Huron. About 100,000 will be released into the lake and two of its tributary streams this spring.

That will provide “more angler opportunities in Lake Huron since the chinook salmon fishery declined,” he said.

LeSage said stocking is used to restore, enhance and create fishing opportunities.

“This is important for many cities and towns as anglers often come from other locations to fish a specific lake, stream or river, and it can boost some local economies.”

LeSage said one of the more significant regulation changes is the reduced number of muskellunge a person can keep.

“Muskellunge possession used to be one per day per angler, but starting from this season, only one may be harvested per angler per year, and a new tag now is required,” he said.

A muskellunge must be at least 40 to 50 inches long, depending on where it’s caught.

Amy Trotter, the resource policy manager at Michigan United Conservation Clubs, said many muskies anglers usually catch and release, so the revised regulation won’t influence recreational opportunities a lot.

“DNR is working very hard to increase and sustain fish populations. The influences won’t be seen for a few years,” Trotter said.

Other changes as of April 1 affect northern pike fishing, bow and spear fishing and possession limit regulations.

LeSage said to get more people to enjoy fishing, a new program called the Family Friendly Fishing Waters will provide a website with information about bodies of water that are easy to access.

The department asking anglers to submit information to the website.

  • Tom M.

    Those people think alewives dying on the beach is a good thing. Any biologist that thinks that should be fired. They’re into a multi year plan to decrease predators and increase alewives, an invasive species, to dominant status. Restoring Perch would increase predators. Anyone who is against restoring Perch knows this, the excuses hold no water.

  • ry

    Go to beach in June nasty alewives all over!!!! This is first year I have seen that many dead on beach just a sign of whats to come if they dont start stocking salmon numbers again. Then they wanna raise licence fees for what? Im a salmon Fisher thats why I buy a all species lic so what would I be paying for if they are not stocking fish I thought thats why u pay extra for a trout salmon stamp when buying a lic.

  • Scoop

    Waste, how many times will I have to tell you I’m not a charter captain or charter boat owner before it sinks in?

    The fishery I want? I want it all — and we have it! Panfish and bass, walleyes and pike, muskies and catfish, salmon and trout — you name it, we have it. It’s not like fishing in a stocked farm pond (I take that back; it’s close at certain times of year and in certain areas!), but it’s still a great fishery.

    The salmon fishery we have pays for itself — many times over, in fact. In a survey of all Wisconsin lakes a few years back, Lake Michigan was chosen as Wisconsin’s favorite lake (and we have over 15,000 lakes). All those who fish salmon and trout on Lake Michigan fund the hatcheries with a salmon and trout stamp (not to mention the federal dollars that come back based on state license sales and the excise tax collected on equipment purchases). It’s also a boon for entire port communities, not just the charter captains. There’s lodging (hotels, motels, condos, bed and breakfasts and other seasonal rentals), restaurants, marinas, bait and tackle shops, gift shops, gas stations, grocery stories, boat repair shops, fish houses (custom smoking) and many more.

    You should be thankful for salmon helping drop alewife numbers what, 90 percent, from historic highs! But no, you’d rather complain about them. Get rid of salmon and you’ll see alewives come back strong! You should be asking for more salmon stocked and hope for a crash like Lake Huron. You anti-DNR, anti-salmon types are hard to figure out.

  • waste

    Face it scoop – the fishery you want requires millions if not billions of tax-based dollars in management each year – and there is no end in sight. Naturally recruiting fisheries such do not require this.

    And, the only reason lake trout are not naturally recruiting and that we have to continue stocking them is because alewife eat their larvae you moron!!!!! Why are the alewife still around – chinook – why are lake trout not recruiting naturally – alewife. Period. So you can again blame your damn salmon fishery for causing the need to continue stocking lake trout without much success.

    Like I said, if you are for salmon, and thus for alewife, you are against these native species: lake trout, bloater, deepwater sculpin, walleye, and perch.

    Lets draw the line and make it clear here – and lets clarify that by supporting salmon you are against these NATIVE species scoop. There’s no gray here.

    Scoop – do you make sure to tell each of your charters that by supporting salmon you are against these native species and all for unending and increased taxes and continued government oversight to make sure your charter can go out right?

    It should be a disclosure you provide scoop, that is that YOU SCOOP SUPPORT NON-SUSTAINABLE HIGHLY MANAGED FISHERIES REQUIRING BILLIONS IN TAX-BASED MANAGEMENT DOLLARS AND WHICH PREVENT THE RESTORATION AND RECOVERY OF NATIVE SPECIES IN THE GREAT LAKES.

    Just make sure you advertise yourself that way and we’ll see how many run to your charter to go catch a few salmon.

    Sorry scoop you can’t play both sides of the fence here – are you for native species or not? Are you for the continued requirement of billions of dollars that needs to be invested each year through taxpayer money and continued waste of our precious resources to keep salmon fishing going or not? Are you for naturally recruiting, sustainable fisheries and better uses of taxpayer monies in the management of our fisheries or not? Are you only interested in money or not? I think that anyone reading through your comments can answer these questions easily, and maybe you need a wake up call if you can;t honestly answer these yourself.

    You support chinook – you are against native species and all for the continued taxation of your fellow citizens to unending government oversight in our fisheries. That’s all there is to scoop.

  • Joe

    Scoop, then it should be okay to point out that no one was even allowed to mention that the first thing that needs to be done with regards to asian carp at this juncture is fix DNR philosophy with regards to stocking fish (restoration). Down here in Louisiana, our predators seem to be fairing better than others. In general, we do not stock fish for angling opportunities.

  • Scoop

    Waste, seriously? The USFWS loves their lake trout, too. They keep stocking millions of them that eat alewives and smelt, and are protected in offshore refuges or netted by native Americans off NW lower Michigan.

    Joe, certainly anyone can discuss how perch and other natives could help against Asian carp, but it’s also OK for others to point out that the vibrant Mississippi River system, packed with bass, catfish, perch, bluegills, crappies, pike and so many more predators, couldn’t do a thing against the carp invasion decades ago — and can’t now, either. Same thing with gobies. Green Bay is loaded with predators of all shapes and sizes, but still never enough to even make a small dent in goby numbers.

    You guys act as if “we salmon guys” are a problem but you don’t even know me. My family has as many perch, panfish, bass and walleye rods as we do salmon gear. We fish rivers and lakes together more than we do the big water trolling season. But I’d argue there’s nothing that any avid angler wants more than to feel that powerful tug at the end of the rod. We’re talking an average 5- to 15-minute or longer fight, depending on the size. Definitely not like reeling in a log-like laker. Salmon do it for us. Closest thing we have to some of the saltwater giants, and far more accessible and abundant. We love to eat ‘em, too. So do oodles of others. One of the salmon tournaments we fish had more than 2,700 entrants in one week last year and they came from all over the country. Like it or not, the Great Lakes are a destination for salmon anglers. Oregon and Washington? Their catch rates don’t even come close to ours. Alaska? Too far away and too expensive.

  • Joe

    Scoop, what’s insane is not allowing someone discuss how perch and natives could help against asian carp versus other options.

  • Tom M.

    The only one plan we are ALL supposed to have is to protect the natural resources. However the only plan we’re allowed to have by the DNR fishery Div. is to protect the alewives. Not to hard to figure out where the problem is, and how to fix it. There is a growing number of people want the people responsible for this GWB, that’s the term they used. GWB stands for Gone Without Benefits. I just want the DNR to quit destroying our fisheries and do the job they get paid for, “protecting our natural resources” but the more I deal with guys like you and see the lies coming out of the fishery division, I’m more inclined to agree with them. I would much rather raise money to stock perch than raise money to pay a lawyer.