The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced a plan to increase stocking in Indiana’s Lake Michigan waters.
The new, interim plan comes in response to a recent Lake Michigan Committee (LMC) recommendation to increase lakewide stocking levels.
“Lakewide data indicates the predator-prey balance in the lake has improved,” says Jeremy Price, DNR fisheries supervisor and Indiana’s LMC representative, “and the size of the salmon out there certainly supports it.”
Beginning in 2020, Indiana’s stocking quota will increase by nearly 87,000 Chinook Salmon equivalents. Chinook Salmon equivalents are conversions fishery managers use to evaluate impacts of different salmonid species on prey fish populations.
The new stocking quota adds back about half of the cuts made in 2017, when DNR managers reduced Chinook Salmon and eliminated lake trout stockings from Indiana waters.
DNR plans to increase chinook stocking by 150,000 fish in 2020, a move made possible through the increase in stocking quota and additional reductions to stockings of steelhead and Coho Salmon.
Fall fingerling Skamania Steelhead will be discontinued on the Little Calumet River and substantial cuts to fall fingerling Coho stockings will be replaced with fewer, but larger, spring Coho yearlings. Similar changes on the St. Joseph River enacted in 2015 have proven extremely successful at increasing salmon returns.
“The new plan gets us back to stocking chinooks annually at all three of our ports,” says Ben Dickinson, DNR biologist for Lake Michigan. “When we cut Chinook stocking in 2017, we promised our anglers that we’d try our best to get back to three ports annually. Today we are pleased to deliver on that promise.”
While some hatchery logistics still need to be resolved, the plan is mostly set for 2020. Price and Dickinson intend to take input from anglers on the plan through one or more public meetings this winter.
“We think most anglers will really like this strategy,” Price says, “but we want to give folks an opportunity to tell us what they think before making this the stocking plan for 2021 and beyond.”
Learn about Lake Michigan fishing at wildlife.IN.gov/3625.htm.