Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fisheries supervisor Bradley Eggold said the No. 1 question he gets is this: “Why don’t we get more fish here? Why do we only get X and that port gets Y? No. 1 question, by far. Everybody wants more fish, but there’s a finite number. If you want more, it means someone else is getting less.”
He was responding to questions about why Gills Rock has not been a part of the DNR’s Chinook fish stocking strategy since at least 2004.
Eggold said he spoke with a couple of guys who were stationed at the DNR’s Sturgeon Bay office but have since retired, and the belief was that Gills Rock was considered less protected than Ellison Bay, which is included in the DNR’s annual Chinook stocking strategy.
“The main thing is let’s get some good survival. That’s one of our top goals, to get good survival with limited predation by birds and other fish. We grow them up to be caught,” Eggold said.
Eggold and other DNR fisheries experts have heard complaints the entire season about poor fishing on Michigan.
“Stocking more fish in the lake is not the answer,” Eggold said. “There’s no correlation to the slow fishing and stocking numbers. Something else is going on. The hard part is separating out what are the real facts. That’s where the emotions run high. We’re trying to work from a set of what we believe are the facts for the best fishery we can have. We’re trying to do the best for long-term viability, not just for Chinook but also for all fisheries. Hopefully the anglers can see that.”
Eggold admits that the stocking strategy used through 2013 is from a model developed in the 1980s.
“Now the thought is by the members of the public and the DNR that model is pretty old,” he said. “We want to develop something different.”
A draft proposal for a new, simplified strategy allocating Chinook salmon is available for review and comment trough Sept. 23 (dnr.wi.gov/topic/Fishing/lakemichigan/LakeMichiganFisheriesForum.html).
The proposed draft stocking strategy was developed by the DNR based on comments and direction from stakeholders and members of the Lake Michigan Fisheries Forum.
Comments will be reviewed and considered for the final draft strategy presented at the Oct. 12 meeting of the Lake Michigan Fisheries Forum, an independent group of anglers, charter boat captains and commercial fishers facilitated by University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute.
“We encourage everyone with an interest in the Lake Michigan fishery to review the draft stocking strategy and send us comments,” Eggold said. “We also hope that many can attend the coming Lake Michigan Fisheries Forum where the group will discuss the new strategy. Wisconsin’s strategy for stocking fish is an important decision and will set the future course of stocking numbers and strategy for the lake for years to come.”
Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and five Michigan tribes sharing fisheries management responsibilities on Lake Michigan agreed last year to adjust stocking levels of Chinook to help continue the strong fishing on the lake by bringing the number of predator fish such as Chinook back into line with the number of prey fish and to account for increased natural reproduction of Chinook.
Under the agreement, DNR stocked 789,321 small fingerling Chinook into Lake Michigan ports in spring 2013, compared to 1.16 million Chinook the previous year. After working with the Lake Michigan Fisheries Forum and stakeholders, fisheries managers decided to allocate fish among the ports in 2013 using the same formula as used since the 1980s, and committed to working with anglers to refine the fish distribution formula for 2014 and beyond.
Eggold says the draft stocking strategy for 2014 and beyond simplifies Wisconsin’s stocking strategy to one with two components: each county will receive a base number of fish to be stocked there to maintain a fall Chinook run in most tributary streams; collectively, these base allocations will account for 75 percent of the fish stocked. Those spawning runs provide a fall fishery for boat, shore and stream anglers.
“We heard loud and clear at meetings to gather ideas for a new stocking strategy that people wanted to make sure there were good fall fishing opportunities up and down the lake,” Eggold said. “By giving each county a base number we believe we’ll continue to provide that fall fishing opportunity they want.”
The remaining 25 percent of fish stocked will be allocated among the counties based on four proposed factors:
• The number of charter boat trips by county. Wisconsin has 318 licensed charter boat captains on Lake Michigan.
• Angler effort directed at salmon and trout in the fall, as determined by the angler surveys conducted by DNR creel clerks.
• The harvest rate of fish in the fall.
• A placeholder for information forthcoming from returns of Chinook fish with a coded wire tag embedded in their snout. The DNR is collecting Chinook fish heads into October this year and in coming years to look for the coded wire tags that can help tell when and where a fish was stocked.
“We certainly want involvement from all areas of the lake,” Eggold said.
Comments on the proposed draft stocking strategy can be sent to Eggold at [email protected], 414.382.7921 or send them via U.S. mail to WDNR, Brad Eggold, 600 E. Greenfield Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53204.