Wisconsin and other Lake Michigan states agreed earlier this year to reduce stocking of chinook salmon by 50% next year. The plan is designed to better balance the populations of predator and prey fish and preserve the world-class trout and salmon fishing on the lake. Similar stocking reductions in 1999 and 2006 are credited with doing exactly that.
But Wisconsin fishery managers are left with one major question: how to allocate the 723,700 kings it plans to stock next year? A meeting to collect public input on that question was held Dec. 1 at Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wis.
Fifty-six sport anglers, commercial fishermen and DNR employees attended, including DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp, executive assistant Scott Gunderson and fisheries chief Mike Staggs. The meeting was moderated by Phil Moy of Wisconsin Sea Grant.
Research has shown that chinook travel widely in the lake during spring and summer but return as mature fish to the sites they were stocked. This "return" fishery provides significant opportunity each fall, especially to near-shore, pier and river anglers.
Among the important points raised at the meeting:
The DNR intends to continue to collect all of its chinook eggs from the Strawberry Creek facility near Sturgeon Bay. Fishery managers said they need at least 750 female and 750 male chinook to return to the facility each fall to ensure it can meet the state's goal of 1.5 million chinook eggs each year. Strawberry Creek has received about 150,000 to 200,000 chinook at Strawberry Creek in recent years, according to the DNR.
The DNR is open to reducing chinook stocking at Strawberry Creek but wants to maintain stocking of at least 150,000 chinook at the site.
The DNR divides Lake Michigan stocking into five management zones: Green Bay, Eastern Door, Kewaunee-Manitowoc, Sheboygan-Ozaukee, Milwaukee-Kenosha. Each port or site in a management zone has generally been stocked with an equal number of fish.
In 2012, the Wisconsin chinook stocking by county or site was approximately: 115,000 Kenosha; 115,000 Racine; 115,00 Milwaukee; 95,000 Ozaukee; 95,000 Sheboygan; 140,000 Manitowoc; 140,000 Kewaunee; 175,000 Strawberry Creek; 50,000 Door County; 55,000 Oconto; and 80,000 Marinette.
DNR creel surveys show Kenosha, Ozaukee, Milwaukee and Racine were the top four counties in angling efforts directed at chinook in September and October. The data was obtained from interviews with shore, river, pier and ramp anglers from 2002-'11. It does not include charter fishing information.
Brad Eggold, DNR Lake Michigan fisheries supervisor, said the department had not made decisions on how to allocate chinook for 2013. He said the department wanted to hear from the public as it attempts to answer:
Should Wisconsin stock fewer fish of other species (coho salmon and rainbow, brown and lake trout) in favor of more chinook?
Should the number of fish stocked at Strawberry Creek be reduced?
Should stocking be allocated to ports based on angler effort, license sales or other considerations?
Based on discussion at the meeting, it's clear the department has a challenging job sorting out the parochial interests of anglers, charter captains and others from Kenosha to Marinette.
Eggold said the DNR needs to decide by Jan. 3. Comments on the chinook stocking allocation will be accepted by the agency through Dec. 17.
Presentations from Saturday's meeting in Cleveland as well as from previous stocking reduction workshops and other Lake Michigan fisheries material are posted at: www.dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/lakemichigan.
Comments may be submitted through Dec. 17 by phone at (414) 382-7921; email at Bradley.Eggold@wisconsin.gov; or mail at Bradley Eggold, DNR fisheries, 600 E. Greenfield Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53204.
Bull's-eye times 30: A high school student from Kentucky has become the first participant in the National Archery in the Schools Program to shoot a perfect score.
Competing at the NASP Invitational Archery Tournament last weekend in Richmond, Ky., Ryan Long hit the bull's-eye with all 30 of his shots for a score of 300. The shots (15 from 10 meters and 15 from 15 meters) were taken with the program's standard equipment - a compound bow without sights or other attachments.
Several competitors had scored 298 in the 10-year history of NASP. Long is a senior at Madison Central High School in Richmond.