Written by The Mining Journal   
Sunday, 23 April 2006 02:27

In an effort to replenish salmon numbers in the near-shore waters of Lake Superior, the South Shore Fishing Association, with help from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, is rearing chinook salmon in the Dead River.

More than 100,000 chinook salmon fry were released Thursday into four net pens placed just upriver from the Dead’s mouth in Marquette’s Upper harbor. The small chinooks will be kept in the pens for four to six weeks and be fed three times a day by automatic feeders. The automatic feeders are modified deer feeders. Volunteers will fill them daily with a special fish food mixture.

“The idea is that the salmon will get used to the smell of the river — get the imprint of the river. Hopefully the fish will acclimate to their surroundings,” association member Garry Tollefson said, adding that the association’s goal is to have the fish return to the river to spawn when they get older.

The net-pens also provide excellent protection from predators for the salmon as they grow into smolts, the juvenile stage for the fish.

This is the fourth year the organization has stocked the pens in the lower Dead River. The first year the association lost a lot of fish when the river flooded, but successes of the past three years are starting to show up in anglers’ creels, according to Tollefson.

Ann Wilson, DNR communications representative, said that the salmon will be fed a meal-product food rich in protein. Additionally, the salmon can feast upon the bacterial food and algae that drifts into the pens due to the current of the river.

“Having food drop in for them, and being able to eat the food that comes naturally through the river, is a great learning curve for these little fish,” Wilson said.

The net-pens were designed and constructed by members of the association. The money used for materials and construction of the four pens was donated by members.

Wisconsin Energies donated space for the pens to be attached to its bin wall, which extends out into the river.

Although not native to the Great Lakes, chinook salmon have been planted in the lakes and their tributaries since the 1970s.

The association, formed about five years ago to work toward improving fishing along the south shore of Lake Superior, also plans to build a fish cleaning station at the Cinder Pond Marina.

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