Building Great Lakes fisheries

Chinook salmon are popular among commercial anglers. They also eat a lot of alewives. Photo: duke.edu

Chinook salmon are popular among commercial anglers. They also eat a lot of alewives. Photo: duke.edu

Brown trout, Chinook and coho salmon  are all currently stocked in one or more of the Great Lakes, however none of these prized catches are native to the basin. These fish were stocked to help manage invasive species and to build a sport fishery.

Over the course of the year, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will stock nearly 19 million fish, including native and non-native species. Todd Grischke, Lake Huron basin coordinator for the Michigan DNR, discusses how fish populations in the Great Lakes have evolved and how they are maintained.

Current State logo Building Great Lakes fisheries by Great Lakes Echo

  • Paul

    Thank you MDNR for stocking salmon! Lake trout may be a keystone species, but hardly anyone wants to target them.

    Waste, are you perhaps a USFWS worker hoping to keep your job stocking lake trout? Not enough toothy predators? That’s a good one! Sounds like you took a page from Tom’s handbook, though. All perch and ‘eyes in Erie weren’t enough to stop gobies, so why do you guys think anything could??? Face it, there could never be enough toothy predators to eat a fish that often exists in densities of 20 per square meter or more, feeds at night and can spawn six times a season with up to 5,000 eggs each time and a success rate estimated at 95 percent!

    Charters lure thousands of people to towns. Many businesses big and small thrive due to the dollars those visitors spend.

    Long live the king (salmon)!

  • Tom M.

    Salmon charters are a commercial enterprise that’s dependant on the intentional destruction of the natural ecosystem to continue, doesn’t belong here(Alewives cannot survive in a healthy native fish population)Subsidised by public funds$8.2 million dingell restoration funds for salmon /trout stocking, X amount for anadromous habitat creation etc… Results are a thriving invasive species population, alewives stay mostly in the lake, the rest are not, puts all lakes at risk, source of pollution. Occurring right now.
    Asian Carp proccessing plants a commercial enterprise also dependant on the intentional destruction of the natural ecosystem to continue (low native predators) subsidised $2 million for carp recipes, several govmint grants.
    Since both these “plans” require the the continued destruction of the natural ecosystem, and actually compound the problem. There is no benefit for the common good, or our so called goal of a healthy ecosystem.

  • waste_of_our_$_n_resources

    The simple fact is that in the last ~40 years the DNR has gone from trying to get rid of invasive species (alewife) to now protecting them (alewife).

    Name another managerial lever that can be as easily pulled to get rid of an invasive species in the Great Lakes as for alewife which simply requires increasing salmon stocking. Got one for lamprey? Got one for round goby? Got one for bythotrephes, quaggas, etc., etc., etc.?

    So managers can’t play both sides here – are you trying to get rid of harmful invasive species or not? If you are, then pull the damn lever for alewife or quit wasting my tax dollars. If you are not, maybe you should your mission statement(s).

  • Bob

    waste_of_our_$_n_resources , you chose a good study to link, except that the content of it doesn’t support your argument but rather provides the basis for the MDNR and GLFC decisions on how to manage the fisheries in a changing ecosystem, and to present the decisions that they will likely have to make in the future.

    Ultimately it’s not some grand conspiracy like you present, but scientists and policy makers making the decisions they think best based upon available data and resources.

    I don’t fish for salmon, and have never fished Lake Michigan. I live on Erie and it’s walleye and perch here. Like you, I would like to see the Great Lakes restored. Yet I would not like to be put in the position that the current fisheries managers are in, trying to fix the existing problems all the while having new ones created. For example, they have made great strides in Lamprey control, and while they were doing it zebra mussels, quagga mussels, gobies, etc. got introduced. Invasivies are getting added faster than the problems can be fixed. And it seems the majority of the problems come from venues outside their control, like the shipping industry importing the invasives or connecting watersheds; or chemical/industrial companies dumping toxins in the lake.

  • Mike

    There’s no comparison of the dollars from sport fishing and commercial fishing. Sport fishing draws billions more than any commercial harvest. Plus, sport fishermen are self supporting through license and stamp sales. The commercials would demand the “government” subsidize their efforts in the name of “tradition” and “jobs.”

  • waste_of_our_$_n_resources

    I love how MDNR selectively report data that supports their positions.

    Lets be clear, lake trout do not recruit because alwewife eat their larvae. To say it’s solely based on B-vitamins is ridiculous and spreading misinformation.

    Another quality MDNR employee (Todd) right there. Just ridiculous – as a scientist you should know better.

    For you to even mention lake trout restoration in the same breath as when you mention the importance of salmon fisheries just exemplifies how dumb, or scared to speak up the employees at MDNR have become.

    But I don’t blame you Todd, I’m sure you have family to support, and I know that if you did really speak to the truth and real facts that you would be canned and lose your job or be extirpated from the good ol’ boys club.

    Thanks so much for doing he public a dis-service that will have impacts that will last for generations. I hope you, and the DNR are proud of the legacy you leave behind and your actions.

  • waste_of_our_$_n_resources

    MICHIGAN DNR you should be ashamed of yourselves – this is a dark chapter in your history and blight on your service to the community.

    You sold out to special interest groups and you chose short term economic gains over long term sustainable fisheries management.

    Michigan DNR – you chose to support invasive and non-native species restoration over native species restoration in the Great Lakes – what a frickin’ joke you have become. Does any fisheries employee in the DNR have courage to stand up for what’s right here (culture of fear)? I know that if you do, you might lose your job so I understand the catch-22, but seriously are you there just for a paycheck?

    Michigan DNR – You chose, almost unilaterally, to stock less chinook salmon (66% percent decrease) to save the alewife in Lake Micihgan and Lake Huron.

    The alewife negatively harms walleye, perch, bloater (or chubs, which still supports commercial fisheries) and deepwater sculpin recruitment (all native species) and population numbers. You chose non-native species over native species restoration. The literature is clear on these facts and your actions are clear despite how subversive and secretive you have tried to be on the subject.

    Further, lake trout, the “keystone species” in Great Lakes fisheries will never be able to have naturally recruiting, self-sustaining populations in the Great Lakes so long as alewife are present and abundant – you want chinook, you can keep wasting dollars that have been continually spent for the last 60 years in trying to restore naturally recruiting lake trout populations – the KEYSTONE (most important in the foodweb, controls everything directly or indirectly) species in Great Lakes fisheries for Gods sakes you morons!

    The effects on native species are all documented in scientific literature written by some of the most respected researchers working on the Great Lakes. It’s very clear.

    To manage this fishery, to keep chinook around, requires alewife.

    Alewife are one of the most harmful species the Great Lakes has EVER known. Read up on it, it;s not hard to find the information. Chinook were brought in specifically to get rid of alewife, and they have been doing such a good job (because the Michigan DNR was also too dumb to realize they began to naturally recruit and boom in numbers on their own, without stocking, nice work, including years when no fin clips were done you idiots!) that alewife are almost gone from Lake Huron — finally, after 50-60 years of trying to get rid of them. They have been at their lowest historical numbers ever, since record keeping began. And right now, we have the chance to get rid of them.

    And now, based off special interest charter fisherman, the DNR goes out of their way to SAVE The alewife. Are you kidding me? For what – a few charter fishermen? What about the millions of people that don’t charter fish for salmon but fish for native species like perch and walleye?

    Taxpayers should be up in arms about this. It costs millions upon millions, if not billions to manage and stock chinook each year. It requires unending taxpayer money to keep this fishery going. Do you want more taxes and more government, or less? Do you want our government to invest in long-term economically sustainable and viable fisheries based off naturally recruiting native species, or do you want to continue to pay more taxes to keep providing fishing for a very select few people? Chinook = more government, more taxes, less sustainable and healthy fisheries and Great Lakes ecosystems. How does this make any sense?

    It also costs millions for lake trout stocking programs to continue – why keep wasting the money – lake trout can not recruit with alewife around.

    Michigan DNR = A joke of an agency without any leadership in fisheries.

    You want examples of where native species are doing well and providing a huge income base for the Great Lakes: look no further than Lake St. Clair. These fish naturally recruit, meaning very few tax dollars comparatively go into managing this fishery. Lake ST. Clair is presently the best bass fishing in the ENTIRE nation according to an article right here on GLECHO http://greatlakesecho.org/2013/05/08/lake-st-clair-best-in-nation-for-bass-lake-erie-in-top-10/.

    Do you see any articles on Great Lakes ECHO about chinook fishing in the Great Lakes being the best in the nation – no, you don’t.

    Furthermore, let me educate you on the principles of fisheries ecology. Okay, look, people say we need salmon to boost local economies. Even in their native habitats, habitats that are not anthropogenically modified with dams, and controlled flows, and pollution, even in these habitats chinook salmon returns to rivers are extremely variable from year to year and so are the fisheries. There is very little that people can do to predict how the fishing for chinook will be this year, or next year for these species EVEN in their native habitats. Why in the hell would anyone think that in a place where chinook never were supposed to be in the first place (the Great Lakes) that they would be more consistent from year to year in catches and returns? Makes NO sense. Seriously, explain that to me – you can’t, and even the best fisheries biologists and the DNR can not explain why that would be expected.

    Thus, you could have fisherman and tourists spending hard earned dollars to go salmon fishing and not catch anything in a bad years and they will never, ever come back. Does that benefit local economies and those who may have invested everything they got in hoping for those tourists to return next year. Makes no sense. On the other hand, if we have naturally recruiting fisheries that we CAN count on to be consistent from year to year and that are awesome such as in Lake St. Clair, people will come back every year and people can build their businesses and lives around that.

    Fishing towns became ghost towns because salmon fishing dried up – don’t you think we should invest in more consistent fisheries that people investing their life into (guides, homes, families etc.) and investing tourist dollars into will get way more in return from? Not according to your Michigan DNR – they would rather waste our precious resources and tax dollars and continue to beat back chances at native species recovery.

    And please, don’t anyone tell me that chinook fisheries contribute 7 billion a year to local economies. That number may be right, but it applies to “all species fished for in the Great Lakes,” NOT solely chinook fisheries.

    It makes sense though the MDNR has a self-interest in protecting their jobs – which includes the many tax dollars that go into these ridiculous programs. Are they really investing in our future and protecting our resources, or protecting their paychecks and special interest groups?

    Here’s another argument: If people and the MDNR want to protect the alewife, well hey, why don’t we start also protecting round goby (another very harmful invasive species)? What, blasphemy you say? Ok, maybe, but one of the reasons smallmouth bass, and walleye, and perch, and whitefish, and burbot, lake trout, and other native great lakes fishes are doing well and rebounding in some areas is because round goby have proliferated and provided a food source for them. They are importnat in the diets of waterbirds also. So if we protect the alewife, lets protect the round goby too right? Oh and wait it does not end there – if we protect the round goby, well we have to protect their food source too which are mainly quagga mussels – another harmful invasive species. You know, whitefish are now eating quaggas too, so we should protect the quagga mussels right MDNR? I mean where does it end Michigan DNR, where does the mismanagement and waste of our tax-dollars end? If you want a chinook fishery – it NEVER ENDS! It’s like a continuous bad nightmare that you can’t be woken up from.

    Lastly – why do we in part have so many invasive species, such as round goby in the Great Lakes? Because over the years, there has been a lack of “toothy predators.” Especially in regards to native species, such as walleye, perch, burbot, and lake trout. These native species, especially when they naturally reproduce and recruit provide one of the most important buffers to non-native species invasions because they eat invaders. Here’s a very relevant example. In Lake Michigan, where the DNR is now choosing chinook and alewife over all these native species, well, they are opening the door even wider to invasion by asian carp. Do you think chinook will be around to eat invading and young of year juvenile asian cap – ha yea right, and what about years where their populations are not doing well and may be small — Great Lakes chinook only mainly eat alewife and the literature supports this. Walleye, lake trout, perch, and other native piscivores have diverse diets that are flexible. They can adapt to eating what’s around – especially species like asian carp and other non-natives that have not co-evolved the tools to escape such predation. So, by choosing alewife and chinook over these native species in Lake Michigan the MDNR is further opening the door for asian carp invasion into the Great Lakes. You want to stop them from coming in – support restoration of native toothy predators not chinook and alewife. And if it’s not asian carp, it will be something else that gets in unless we provide a buffer by supporting native species restoration. So way to go MDNR, looks like you also support the invasion of asian carp or other non-native in the future through your mismanagement.

    If you don’t believe me here’s a link to an article written by very well known scientists which supports every point i make. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03632415.2012.731875#.UcqQtzvIvws
    And, here is the abstract for that article:
    “The combined destructive effects of overfishing, habitat destruction, and invasive species, especially alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) and sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) led to the loss of the native top predator lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) from most of the Great Lakes by 1960. Alewife populations then exploded, creating nuisance die-offs. Public demands for action, coupled with control of sea lamprey, allowed fishery managers to consider stocking Pacific salmon to control alewife and establish a recreational fishery. This effort was successful, reducing alewife numbers and creating a recreational fishery that is estimated at $7 billion annually. This fishery management regime may no longer be viable as new invasive species continue to alter the ecosystem. Fishery managers face an interesting dilemma: whether to manage in the short term for a popular and economically important sport fishery or to embrace ecosystem change and manage primarily for native fish species that appear to be better suited to ongoing ecosystem changes. Such dilemmas occur in great lakes around the world as fishery managers seek to balance economic pressure with changes in their respective ecosystems, often brought about by invasive species.”

    Shame on you Michigan DNR. Please quit wasting our money and sabotaging the future of Great Lakes fisheries through these management practices. You are supposed to represent the people (taxpayers) who write your paychecks, not special interest groups.

    I am ashamed to be represented by a subversive, power-hungry, unilateral decision making governmental agency that faces no repercussions for such environmental destructive behaviors.

    Where is the justice?

  • Joe

    What up Todd? You talk as if recreational fishing draws more money than industrial fishing drew. No hope for the future of Great Lakes fishing?