2016 Was Good Year for Anglers on Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan anglers reported significantly improved results for many species in 2016, reeling in nearly 385,000 salmon and trout, including the third highest number of coho salmon since 1992.

“During much of 2016, favorable weather and water temperatures helped produce solid results and we are pleased to see anglers benefit from ongoing efforts to provide a diverse and balanced fishery,” said Brad Eggold, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Great Lakes district fisheries supervisor. “While the chinook harvest showed healthy increases over the past two years, coho salmon proved to be the big story with more than 125,000 fish harvested.”

Highlights from DNR’s 2016 survey of anglers on Lake Michigan include:

  • An overall salmon and trout harvest of 384,908 fish, up 43 percent from the 269,978 taken in 2015. This marks the highest catch since 590,210 fish were harvested in 2012;
  • A chinook harvest of 139,082 fish, up 22 percent from 113,973 in 2015;
  • A coho harvest of 125,964, up 207 percent from 41,010;
  • A rainbow trout harvest of 76,846, up 30 percent from 59,106;
  • A brown trout harvest of 23,879, up 18 percent from 20,174;
  • A lake trout harvest of 19,137, down 46 percent from 35,715.

The improved results came even as anglers decreased their effort to 2.63 million hours from last year’s 2.73 million hours, about 1 percent below the five-year average. The harvest rate increased to 0.1464 fish per hour, up slightly (2.17 percent) from the five-year average.

Factoring in other species such as northern pike, walleye, smallmouth bass and yellow perch, the 2016 harvest totaled 557,375. Among the other fish, walleye accounted for the single largest target species at 78,440 fish, a 21 percent decrease from 99,302 in 2015. Smallmouth bass saw the greatest increase to 16,880 fish, up 79 percent from 9,422 in 2015.

During the last 15 years, sport fishing surveys show that boat anglers are harvesting the majority of fish on Lake Michigan. Anglers who launched their own boats from ramps or marinas or invested in a charter trip were the most successful. The sport harvest from ramps and marinas totaled 395,549 fish, while charter captains helped clients bring in 112,150 fish.