Naze: Save an alewife? Slash lake trout stockings
If state natural resources agencies want what’s best for anglers and the port communities that rely on the multimillion-dollar impact of salmon fishing, now might be a good time to play hardball with the feds.
It’s been a decade since more chinooks were stocked than lake trout in Lake Michigan, and in recent years there have been two to four times more lake trout — more than 3.5 million lakers annually in 2012 and 2013, for example — planted than “kings.”
“This is ridiculous,” said Troy Mattson of Kinn’s Sport Fishing in Algoma. “They keep blaming the kings for the decline in alewives, yet (the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) keep planting millions of lake trout. If this is truly a top-down predation issue, why keep stocking a fish that lives for decades and isn’t even the main attraction for our customers?”
A multi-state and tribal committee recommendation to slash chinook stocking 61.5 percent next spring — just four years after a 50 percent lakewide cut — has charter captains and other sport anglers furious.
A trio of public meetings will be held later this month to accept feedback and discuss other options, including 6-8 p.m. June 27 at Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland and 6-8 p.m. June 29 at the Brown County Library in Green Bay.
Anglers are seeing a lot of alewives near shore and in deeper water on their fish locators this year, as well as in the bellies of the trout and salmon they’re catching. Most are small, likely from a decent 2015 year class, but there are mixed sizes.
Annual federal acoustic and trawl surveys show a shrinking number of adult alewives, and fish managers are trying to avoid a crash of the forage base like happened in Lake Huron more than a decade ago.
Todd Kalish, deputy director of the Wisconsin DNR fisheries bureau, worked with the Michigan DNR when alewives collapsed on Lake Huron about 13 years ago. He said the resulting crash of the salmon fishery was “an absolute catastrophe,” and should be a cautionary tale for Wisconsin given the more than $100 million in annual spending by Great Lakes sport anglers here.
Kalish encourages anglers to come to the meetings with creative thoughts and suggestions for management strategies. He said agencies want to work with anglers, and hope to preserve the salmon fishery while developing options to enhance and maintain a diverse fishery.
But Tom Kleiman of Accurate Marine in Kewaunee, president of the Wisconsin Lakeshore Business Association — a group formed earlier this year to promote Lake Michigan’s world-class salmon and trout fishery — said his group is asking Gov. Scott Walker and DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp to reject the committee’s proposal and recommend that salmon stocking levels remain stable, rainbow and brown trout stockings be increased and the daily bag limit for lake trout be raised from two to five.
Kleiman said charter captains were visibly upset at the timing of the DNR press release this week, right before the peak of the summer fishing season.
The proposal would equate to a 56 percent chinook salmon reduction (from 810,000 to 355,000) for Wisconsin. Other states would also take a hit: Michigan would drop from 560,000 to 200,000, Illinois from 230,000 to 90,000 and Indiana from 200,000 to 45,000.
The proposal follows a third round of stocking reductions in 2013, when committee and state natural resource managers agreed to the current total from previous levels of more than three million chinook stocked each year.
Compare that to the period between 1978 and 1990, when Wisconsin alone stocked more than two million chinooks 11 times, including nearly 2.9 million in 1984 and more than 2.7 million in 1989.
If the committee’s proposal stands, it would be the fewest “kings” stocked by Wisconsin since 1972 — three years after the state’s first planting of chinooks.
The Green Bay Pointing Dog Club is offering a training day June 25 at 8 a.m. at the Scarboro Wildlife Area, top of Hill Road.
Hunters with pointing dogs are welcome. Cost is $5 per bird used, and club members will assist until everyone gets to work their dog. To learn more, call Billy evenings at (920) 257-4816 or email [email protected].
The DNR is continuing to seek comments on proposed changes to commercial whitefish rules in northern Lake Michigan and Green Bay. Look up “Lake Michigan commercial whitefish” at dnr.wi.gov; e-mail comments by June 30 to [email protected].
The Kewaunee Hunting & Fishing Club’s 84th annual Trout Boil is set for 5-7 p.m. next Friday at Bruemmer Park. Cost is $11 per plate, and takeouts are available. Hotdogs and brats will also be served to those who don’t want fish.
Kevin Naze is a freelance outdoors writer. Email him at [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Naze: Save an alewife? Slash lake trout stockings