Chinook stock to be slashed
Written by MI City News-Dispatch   
Saturday, 29 October 2005 15:10

The consensus among angler groups and fishery managers at that Sept. 24 lakewide Chinook conference in Kenosha, Wisc., was to slash chinook stockings by 25 percent. Nothing more or less is expected when a joint release by Lake Michigan agencies is made public next Friday.

The reasoning for the cutbacks, in spite of unprecedented catch rates of chinook this past summer, is there may be too many salmon for their own good.

Chinook are weighing dramatically less than they use to - nearly 40 percent less than they were 10 years ago - and the alewife population appears to be substantially down.

Natural reproduction of chinook is also much higher than previously believed. Biologists figure there may be four million chinook entering the system which is nearly equal to the number of hatchery-produced salmon.

A similar unbalanced predator/prey scenario unfolded on Lake Huron a few years ago and the result was alewives virtually disappeared followed shortly by chinook.

There is a complex web of other factors affecting alewife abundance but with chinook being the chief predator - kings may consume up to 70 percent of available forage - they are the easiest thing to manage.

The other big stocking issue is the announcement by Michigan this summer that they planned to eliminate one million coho due to budget constraints.

That sent a shock wave through the southern Lake Michigan fishing community because coho are the backbone of the local fishery and the cutback would represent a 40-percent reduction in lakewide production.

Thanks to the diligence of several fishing groups, the coho cutback may still be up in the air. Michigan hasn't made any public announcements, but reportedly, a full compliment of coho eggs were collected this fall.

Stay tuned on that one.

As for fishing - whitefish, winter-run steelhead and lake trout should be turning on.

Once the Lake Michigan water temperatures dip below 50 degrees, which it was approaching this week, lake trout then whitefish move into the shallows to spawn. The winter-runs crowd inshore and start trickling up Trail Creek.

There still are plenty of salmon and holdover Skamania steelhead cruising the local creeks.

Steelhead and coho have been best in the lower stretches of the stream on spinners, plugs or large spawn sacks. Anglers fishing smaller stuff are being pestered by fingerlings.

Chinook are scattered throughout the tributary systems, but are reportedly looking weary, tattered and near death.

A pair of steelhead were caught among the three anglers fishing the harbor early Thursday morning.

No reports of perch due to rough lake conditions for most of the past week. Same goes for inland lakes where drippy weather has kept anglers at home. The fish should be there - on both fronts - whenever anglers can get at them.

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