Wild Things: DNR on Track to Deliver 3 Million Trout, Salmon

Coronavirus concerns are affecting this year’s salmon and trout stocking plans, but not in a way that will diminish future fishing success.

In fact, it could be argued that more fish will be available to anglers during the coming years as a result of a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to cancel its offshore lake trout stocking program and put the fish in near shore instead.

Todd Kalish, deputy director of the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Bureau of Fisheries Management, said the COVID-19 public-health emergency has altered some plans, but the agency is still on track to meet the stocking goals identified in its 2020-22 Lake Michigan stocking plan.

More than 3 million trout and salmon will be stocked into the lake this year, including 1.2 million chinook salmon; 500,000 coho salmon; 460,000 rainbow trout (steelhead); 450,000 brown trout; 375,000 lake trout; 100,000 Arlee rainbows (a nearshore strain); and 50,000 brook trout.

Because of the ongoing concerns about the coronavirus, the DNR has suspended its salmon net pen projects and offshore brown trout stocking this year. Both require close contact between DNR staff and the public, and those efforts can draw crowds.

Instead, salmon that were destined for net pens will be stocked at locations that were discussed and agreed to by local clubs in 2017. These stocking sites are generally upriver to limit bird predation.

DNR hatchery trucks delivered the first coho salmon and brown trout in late March, and the department anticipates stocking to be completed later this month. 

The Fish and Wildlife Service, which raises lake trout, plans to put 127,000 lakers in at Kewaunee and 248,000 at Manitowoc.

Steelhead egg-taking at DNR collection sites at Kewaunee and Racine is taking place this month, but largely out of the public eye to protect staff members and the public. Kalish said the DNR is on track to take enough eggs to meet the stocking quota in 2020 and 2021.

Spawning should be complete next week, and final egg-take numbers and a salmon and trout stocking summary will be disseminated shortly after.

Spring Warmup Coming

Cold, windy weather is expected to give way to more springlike temperatures late next week, with highs in the 50s to near 60 degrees. Lakeshore smelt dipnetters and seiners have had some success for the second straight spring. Now might be a good time to try off the bayside creeks.

Walleyes, northern pike and brown trout are providing some action in the bay and lake shallows, and rainbow trout and suckers are wrapping up spawning runs in the lakeside tributaries.

Wardens are patrolling creeks and rivers to watch walleye spawning spots, check on turkey hunters and do license, safety and boat-registration checks. If you spot suspicious activity, help them out by calling 800.TIP.WDNR (800.847.9367).

Public-Input Results

The DNR is compiling and validating public responses to questions as part of the 2020 spring fish and wildlife hearings, which were held April 13-16 in an online-only format because of the coronavirus. 

Once the nonbinding results are available, you’ll be able to see them at All are advisory only, used to gauge public opinion.

Water-Levels Update

As of April 10, Lake Michigan was 15 inches higher than a year ago, 36 inches above the 100-year average and 67 inches above the all-time low, set in 1964. Water levels were three inches above the all-time high, set in 1986.