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Lake Michigan Salmon Stocking Controversy Deepens

salmon in lake michigan
The Consummate Sportsman

Michigan and Wisconsin don’t seem to agree on what to stock in Lake Michigan.

Earlier this year, five states agreed to lower the stocking rate of the Chinook salmon and lake trout in Lake Michigan. The stocking rates were set to drop by 27 percent for Chinook, while lake trout stocking was going to decrease by 12 percent. This was a joint decision made by the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, and the tribal organization The Chippewa-Ottawa Resource Authority.

The intent was to combat the sharp decline in the populations of the alewives and the rainbow smelt, the main food source for the two top predators in Lake Michigan. The loss of the prey species is the result of the invasive quagga and zebra mussels.

This video from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources explains the current state of Lake Michigan:

News of the stocking drops upset a lot of anglers and people who depend on the Chinooks for business. Forming an organization call the Great Lakes Salmon Initiative to make their voices heard. After meeting with the DNR Wisconsin has decided to cave into their demands.

Seemingly against all odds and the wishes of the other states, Wisconsin has decided to maintain its Chinook stocking levels. On top of that, it has decided to cut the stocking of lakers by half. In theory, this should free up more baitfish for the salmon. However, it could result in too many salmon, at which point there will be an alewife collapse.

Lake trout populations were also on the decline with the introduction of the alewives. Apparently, consuming too many of them was making the trout infertile. In an effort to keep a balance and restore the population, the states have been working together for 50 years.

Out of this cooperative work came an agreement that none of the states would lower their stocking rates of lake trout in ways that had not previously been discussed.

Only time will tell if the state of Wisconsin is making the right decision or if Lake Michigan will end up like Lake Huron with a now rebounding salmon population. Wisconsin could also be basing their decision on science and not just social pressures as well.


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Lake Michigan Salmon Stocking Controversy Deepens