Lake Superior chinook program not productive
Written by Ironwood Daily Globe   
Saturday, 10 March 2007 18:26

The return on the chinook salmon program in Lake Superior is so poor that the Department of Natural Resources might end stocking altogether. Members of the Saxon Harbor Boating Club met with DNR fisheries biologists Steve Schram and Mike Seider Wednesday night and salmon stocking was discussed.

The DNR stocks 200,000 chinooks in the lake annually, including about 20,000 out of Saxon Harbor. A chart supplied by the DNR showed last summer fewer than 1,000 chinooks were caught, however.

Denny Ellos of Ironwood notes the Michigan DNR stocks even more chinooks out of Black River Harbor annually.
"We get no return," he said.

Seider said DNR creel surveys are showing two-thirds of the chinooks that are caught are wild fish, meaning they are born in streams or in the lake.

Meanwhile, there's a current abundance of small coho salmon in the lake. The DNR does not stock cohos.

There are several factors that could be contributing to the poor catch rate for chinooks. The smelt population, a forage fish for salmon, has dwindled and there are many predator fish that gobble up the chinooks, which are stocked at around six or seven inches.

A two-foot long lake trout can easily eat a small salmon.

Cormorants are also a threat, especially to newly planted salmon.

"The predators are there," Schram said.

At Saxon Harbor, the fish have been raised in pens and released in deeper water to keep them away from birds and otters. But doesn't stop lake trout from moving in and eating the little salmon.

Schram noted because Saxon Harbor has a large volume of water, it might be better if the newly planted fish are released there.

Salmon planting will continue this year, but future stocking is up in the air.

The club will continue to clip the salmon that are planted this spring so fishermen can check whether the fish they are catching are wild or from the hatchery. Saxon volunteers will once again spend a day at the Bayfield hatchery clipping the fish.

Schram said providing different gamefish species to keep all anglers satisfied is difficult. "Its' a real management challenge for us to provide a diverse fishery," he said.
 
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