Update: Anglers propose 1-2 year moratorium on salmon stocking in Lake Michigan

By Howard Meyerson

Some of the most involved salmon anglers in the state now appear to be very nervous about forage conditions in Lake Michigan and what that means for the Chinook salmon that rely on them.

In a letter dated April 11, 2012 to Michigan fisheries chief, Jim Dexter, members of the state’s Lake Michigan Citizen’s Fishery Advisory Committee  asked that the state consider a moratorium on salmon stocking for one to two years

“It is the consensus of the LMCFAC that a 5th option be considered –Stocking of Chinook salmon be stopped for a period of 1-2 years coupled with an extensive and intensive monitoring and evaluation program that could trigger stocking efforts should indicators prove necessary.

“Better to error on the side of increasing forage biomass – than a collapsed fishery. Doing too little – too late – is a path we can’t retrace,” the letter states.

The letter, signed by Paul Jensen who represents the commercial fishing industry, is indicative of how dicey conditions are in Lake Michigan. The committee members represent all segments of the Lake Michigan fishing community, including fishing charter captains, recreational anglers, tribal fishing interests, the Izaak Walton League and Michigan United Conservation Clubs.

Members of the committee state that there are too many red-flags appearing in their risk analysis model. The fifth option is to be brought up at the public salmon stocking workshop April 14 in Benton Harbor.

State fisheries researchers say Chinook salmon increasingly reproduce naturally in Lake Michigan tributaries. Estimates are that 50 percent of the one year old fish are natural. That can go as high as 80 percent of three and four-year olds. The naturally reproduced fish put pressure on the forage base that didn’t exist years ago.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Lake Michigan basin coordinator, Jay Wesley said “We may be over-relying on hatchery stock now.”  The stocking cuts are being proposed to balance the predator prey ratio in the lake.

Copyright © 2012 Howard Meyerson

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