Digging into more on fall Chinook in Lake Michigan: Take on size vs numbers

SHARE Digging into more on fall Chinook in Lake Michigan: Take on size vs numbers
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``Lakefront Mike’’ Henderson holds one of the solid Chinook caught in the fall return to the Chicago lakefront.
Provided by Ray Hinton

I hope a graduate student in fisheries dives into a multidisciplinary study of the human and biological sides of managing Chinook (kings) on Lake Michigan.

This fall has been memorable for Chinook, not in numbers but in size. Let’s tackle that. We’ll pick at other pieces of the Chinook puzzle in coming weeks.

Adult Chinook return to where they were stocked (generally) in the fall in a remnant of the spawning ritual. The non-native fish were introduced into Lake Michigan a half-century ago to control the non-native alewife. It worked. Alewives are at historically low levels, though they might be stabilizing.

An unexpected result of Chinook stocking came in successful spawning in some streams/rivers, especially in Michigan.

In response to the reduction in alewives and rising numbers of wild salmon in Lake Michigan, state and tribal fisheries managers made reductions in stocking numbers of Chinook.

That appears to be working (we’ll know more this winter with more data). Anecdotal evidence from readers suggests better-sized Chinook, albeit fewer, are coming back to shore this fall.

Last week, I asked on Facebook what fishermen most wanted. The response was as varied as I expected and, generally, smarter.

Capt. Brian Gentile touched on the dichotomy of size vs. numbers.

‘‘For personal fishing, size for sure,’’ he posted. ‘‘For charters, absolutely numbers.’’

‘‘I’d have to say more but smaller,’’ Eric Multon posted. ‘‘The bigger fish are nice, but I’d rather hit fish all day.’’

On a purely personal level (don’t read this as a management suggestion), I fall in Multon’s camp.

Chris Ranneyhit what I suspect might be general management in coming years with ‘‘a good batch of 3-year-old [Chinook] . . . along with an uptick in steelhead and [brown trout].’’

I also think Chad Rauch, at the end of a longer comment, captured what the long-range future eventually will be.

‘‘I think efforts should focus on native fisheries and keep non-natives out,’’ he posted.

Jay Abregosided with big kings over numbers and raised an issue we’ll tackle another day.

‘‘But Indiana shouldn’t be left out, like they have been,’’ he posted. ‘‘It is very unfair that Wisconsin did not go along with the stocking cuts yet is enjoying the sacrifices the other states have made. Indiana has basically a nonexistent king run now.’’

‘‘I prefer smaller and more numerous kings,’’ Capt. Ralph Steiger posted. ‘‘Our fall fishery is an absolute embarrassment. Can’t catch what you don’t stock.

‘‘I could write a book on this subject, and I don’t mean that in an arrogant way. But I’ve seen the demise of our king population.’’

Steiger charters virtually year-round. We’ll crack his book another day and give a response from the Indiana DNR.

The last word goes to Howard Bass, who thinks only browns and steelhead should be stocked. He emailed a dissertation on the changing lakefront fishery that included this: ‘‘The king in Chicago is now becoming the fish of 20,000 casts.’’

Deer

The youth deer hunt in Illinois is Saturday through Monday. Permits are available over the counter. . . . Crop harvest continues fast. Through Sunday, corn was 48 percent harvested (the five-year average is 25 percent) and soybeans were 35 percent harvested (27 percent last year). That should aid scouting and archery deer hunting, which opened Monday.

Stray cast

Singing Mike Ditka did to a historic sports day what a rock-throwing kid does to trout rising in a mountain stream.


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