Food chain broken, salmon may starve
Written by Muskegon Chronicle   
Monday, 27 March 2006 12:15

Charter boat anglers caught a near-record number of chinook salmon last year in Lake Michigan, according to the latest state data. So why were fisheries experts and charter boat captains looking so worried at a meeting in Grand Haven this weekend?

Because the foundation of the Lake Michigan food chain is eroding and chinook salmon are in danger of running out of food. Anglers and biologists don't want West Michigan's great lake to go the way of Lake Huron, where the salmon fishery has virtually disappeared due to a lack of food.

"What happened in Lake Huron is a concern here," said Denny Grinold, a longtime charter boat captain and past president of the Michigan Charter Boat Association.

The four states surrounding Lake Michigan will reduce salmon stocking levels in the lake by 25 percent this year in an effort to keep chinook from eating themselves into oblivion.

No one knows if the huge biological experiment, which is aimed at propping up the alewife that salmon eat, will work.

"We don't know what's going to happen," said Jay Wesley, the southern Lake Michigan unit manager for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. "This may do the trick and the alewife will come back, or the alewife might not come back and we'll still have these (biological) red flags."

Some of those biological red flags were evident in the salmon anglers caught last year: the fish were much smaller than in the past, according to state data.

Still, the 2005 chinook salmon harvest in Michigan waters -- 82,101 fish -- was the best since the mid-1980s, according to charter fishing data compiled by the DNR.

"Charter boats had a phenomenal harvest in terms of number of fish," said Donna Wesander, a DNR fisheries technician. She presented the catch data Saturday to anglers at a fisheries workshop in Grand Haven.

Charter boat anglers caught a near-record number of chinook salmon last year in Lake Michigan, according to the latest state data.

So why were fisheries experts and charter boat captains looking so worried at a meeting in Grand Haven this weekend?

Because the foundation of the Lake Michigan food chain is eroding and chinook salmon are in danger of running out of food. Anglers and biologists don't want West Michigan's great lake to go the way of Lake Huron, where the salmon fishery has virtually disappeared due to a lack of food.

"What happened in Lake Huron is a concern here," said Denny Grinold, a longtime charter boat captain and past president of the Michigan Charter Boat Association.

The four states surrounding Lake Michigan will reduce salmon stocking levels in the lake by 25 percent this year in an effort to keep chinook from eating themselves into oblivion.

No one knows if the huge biological experiment, which is aimed at propping up the alewife that salmon eat, will work.

"We don't know what's going to happen," said Jay Wesley, the southern Lake Michigan unit manager for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. "This may do the trick and the alewife will come back, or the alewife might not come back and we'll still have these (biological) red flags."

Some of those biological red flags were evident in the salmon anglers caught last year: the fish were much smaller than in the past, according to state data.

Still, the 2005 chinook salmon harvest in Michigan waters -- 82,101 fish -- was the best since the mid-1980s, according to charter fishing data compiled by the DNR.

"Charter boats had a phenomenal harvest in terms of number of fish," said Donna Wesander, a DNR fisheries technician. She presented the catch data Saturday to anglers at a fisheries workshop in Grand Haven.

 
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