Drastic Reductions in 2013 Chinook Plantings Planned by WI DNR

Do you like to catch Chinook Salmon? If yes, be prepared from some drastic changes!

The Wisconsin DNR has been involved with and hosting meetings of their own on a subject very dear to all of the Lake Michigan Salmon Fishermen. The Scientists and members of the UW Michigan and UW Wisconsin Staffs, in concert with Sea Grant Michigan and Sea Grant Wisconsin, have identified a forage base crisis in Lake Michigan. They have determined that we are headed towards a forage base crash just like Lake Huron if we do not reduce the load on the forage base. They have also identified that one of the major contributors to this dilemma is unknown amounts of naturally reproducing Chinook salmon in Michigan’s streams and Canadian streams in Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay, numbering perhaps into the millions.

To decrease the probability of a forage base crash, they have determined that drastic cuts need to take place in amount of Chinook planted this coming Spring. If you visit the WI DNR website at this address: http://dnr.wi.gov/fish/lakemich/managementreports.htm, you will see a lot of data on this subject. If you navigate to the Lake Michigan Stocking Strategies Workshop 6 – presentation from August 7 and 9, you will find the data that was presented by Brad Eggold, Wisconsin DNR Fisheries Manager and our representative to the Region team of DNR members who will decide in September, how big the planning cuts will be for the various states and places for the Spring Chinook salmon planting.

They are proposing an overall reduction of 50% of the amount of Chinook salmon being planted in 2013 from the numbers planted in 2012. However, there has been some manipulation which should make you sit up and take notice. Overall, Michigan will take a 66.8% reduction, but Illinois and Indiana will only take 8% and 11.1% respectively. That leaves Wisconsin with a 37.8% reduction, overall. However, to adjust for future stocking considerations, it is proposed to leave Strawberry Creek in Door County at 100% of 2012 stocking, but reduce the rest of Wisconsin ports by 44.5%, to meet the 37.8% overall goal.

In plain English, this means every port in Wisconsin will take a 44.5% reduction in Chinook being planted in 2013 from what was planted in 2012. In Milwaukee, they planted 114,000 Chinook salmon this past May. If we reduce that by 44.5%, that means only 63,270 Chinook will be planted in 2013, or only 5.5% more than a 50% reduction right here. Multiply this reduction at every port like Racine, Kenosha, Port Washington, Sheboygan and Algoma and you begin to see that in 4 years after next Spring’s planting, there will be only a small return of 4 year old salmon to their planted ports. Given the success we have seen this year and last year, this is scary. A forage base crash is also very scary!

I maintain that Michigan needs to take a larger reduction, as that is where the natural reproduction is taking place. They have a natural return of 4 year old salmon. The rest of the lake will see reduced salmon numbers and most likely, a reduced abundance of 2 and 3 year old salmon, before they migrate from the lake back to their streams where they were naturally reproduced in Michigan.

Brad Eggold is taking comments through the end of August. You can contact him through the website above. I have to believe that more than the 8 people who showed up at the August 7th meeting in Green Bay and 20 people, who showed up at the August 9th meeting in Milwaukee, care about this fishery. Please do not complain to me or the GLSF members who did attend the Milwaukee meeting when Chinook salmon become scarce in the late summer of 2016, as it will be too late. Please contact Brad today with your comments.