The Department of Natural Resources has announced a tentative plan for stocking cuts to Lake Michigan trout and salmon. According to the tentative plan, chinook stocking would be reduced 38% in Wisconsin, 67% in Michigan, 8% in Illinois and 11% in Indiana.
The specific stocking levels for chinook would change over the next year from 1.16 million (in 2012) to 724,000 (2013) in Wisconsin, 1.69 million to 560,000 in Michigan, 250,000 to 230,000 in Illinois and 225,000 to 200,000 in Indiana.
The largest cuts are planned for Michigan because chinook are naturally reproducing in that state's tributaries to Lake Michigan. Fisheries managers estimate about half the lake's chinook are wild, naturally reproduced fish hatched in Michigan streams or migrants from Lake Huron. Fisheries managers have recommended stocking cuts to better balance the population of predator and forage fish in the lake.
According to surveys by the U.S. Geological Survey the biomass of forage fish, including alewife, was at a record low in 2011.
In addition, there is no plan at the present time to reduce the harvest of forage fish by commercial fishermen. Alewife and smelt are considered the most important forage species in the lake and both are caught and sold either as by-catch or through quotas by commercial fisherman.
The chinook stocking reductions would begin in all states in 2013.
The committee is expected to make its final decisions by early September.