Chinook salmon reproducing naturally, DNR says

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Chinook salmon will no longer be stocked in Lake Superior because the wild population has become is self-sustaining, the state said Thursday.

A juvenile spring chinook salmon.

Officials with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources called the development a positive one for salmon populations and individuals who fish at the lake.

“By surviving and reproducing, wild salmon have demonstrated a fitness for the Lake Superior environment, and that fitness will be passed on to future generations, ensuring viable fisheries for years to come,” said Phil Schneeberger, DNR’s Lake Superior Basin coordinator in a statement.

“From a DNR hatchery perspective, money and effort from Lake Superior Chinook salmon rearing can now be redirected to other important programs.”

Through DNR creel surveys, or surveys that track fish communities, the DNR documented wild versus stocked Chinook in Lake Superior since 2012. The department determined that more than 99 percent of angler-caught Chinooks in Michigan waters were from natural reproduction.

Other agencies around the lake including Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ontario reported similar findings, officials said.

According to the state, the findings were presented this year and received support from organizations including the Lake Superior Citizens Fishery Advisory Committee, the South Shore Fishing Association and the Central Upper Peninsula Sport Fishing Association.

“The sport fishing community wants to see license dollars spent to promote the greatest good for the lake,” said Mylan Koski, Lake Superior Citizens Fishery Advisory Committee Chair. “Given the lack of hatchery fish showing up in angler catches, continuation of stocking would be wasteful and poor stewardship. Sport fishing groups look forward to working with the DNR to identify future stocking and/or management actions to benefit recreational opportunities in Lake Superior.”

In 2007, the state stopped stocking Lake Superior with coho salmon because populations had become self-sustaining. Since that time, the coho fishery has remained strong, officials said.

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