State strives to boost salmon
Written by The Times-Hreald   
Wednesday, 17 August 2005 09:30
Until a few years ago, salmon anglers provided a big chunk of business to fishing stores such as Bryan Touchette's in Sanilac County.

Anglers traveled for miles to drop their lines in Lake Huron.

Thanks to harsh weather and the emergence of invasive species, the giant game fish has suffered locally in numbers and size.

The state hopes it has a solution: add fewer fish to the lake.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources each year stocks the lake with about 2.4 million chinook salmon. It is considering cutting the annual number by 50%. The intent is to reduce the number of predators eating a dwindling number of prey fish.

"We don't know if we have a momentary imbalance ... or if we are realizing a full food-web shift," said Tammy Newcomb, acting assistant chief of the DNR Fisheries Division.

Tinkering with the amount of fish stocked isn't common, Newcomb said. The last reduction was in 1998 when a 20% decrease was enacted also to improve the predator/ prey relationship. While that drop provided some relief, Newcomb said it wasn't enough.

Fisheries managers said the drop in number and size of fish warrants another reduction. The state is welcoming public comments on the plan.

A decision won't be made until October.

Touchette, owner of Great Lakes Archers & Anglers, isn't sure what will bring back the salmon.

"It's hard to say. The fish that have been caught really haven't had much feed in them," he said. "It's going to take time for stuff to turn around."

The state and anglers probably won't know for at least two years if the cut in stocked fish would have any effect. The 50% reduction is planned for five years unless any major changes are noticed more quickly.

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