Illinois DNR to Hold Informational Meeting on Lake Michigan

Illinois DNR to Hold Informational Meeting on Lake Michigan

Recently I received this notice that the IDNR will be having an informational meeting on the efforts of the States stocking of fish in lake Michigan.  The meeting will be an informational meeting that will allow the attendee to listen in on what the future plans are for stocking as well as understand what the condition of Lake Michigan’s Fishery is in.   From what I understand there will be a chance to voice your concern and ask questions, but most of the items have already been set in stone and this will be informational only.

Please take a look at the email invite I received and see what you can do to make this event.  There is always strength in numbers so make some time out of your day to attend:


As we all know, Lake Michigan supports a world-class recreational fishery for five species of salmon plus trout and offers more localized fishing for nearshore fish like walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth bass and northern pike. It is a complex ecosystem with a long history of exotic invasions and losses of native species, but the lake continues to produce fish that are accessible to boat, shoreline and river anglers.

 he current fisheries are maintained in part by efforts to control non-native sea lamprey and stock salmon and trout that eat another non-native fish, like the alewife. Much has been written concerning the birth of the salmon fishery and the many positive and negative effects that alewife have on native species. The bottom line is that managers now balance the number of predatory salmon and trout in Lake Michigan to avoid having too many or too few alewife in the lake and to maintain fisheries. The lake’s fisheries and their management are shared between Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and five tribal governments represented by the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority.  Decisions regarding the lake’s fisheries are made by consensus among these parties and their current decision process involves a problem that is more serious than it may sound: Too many predators for the available prey.

If managers continue with status quo stocking for the next twenty years, they could expect a 23% chance of low alewife biomass and a 35% chance of low Chinook salmon weight that could lead to starvation and disease outbreaks. To reduce these risks, the Lake Michigan Committee is considering several options for reducing stocking levels. Chinook salmon stocking was reduced lake-wide by 25% in 2006 and the results of that cut are viewed as largely positive. Chinooks reproduce successfully in many rivers, so reductions in Chinook stocking alone may not be enough to limit risks to acceptable levels.

Reductions in stocking of other trout and salmon species may further help to ease the pressure on bait fish such as alewife.  However, these other species provide unique fisheries that many anglers cherish. Steelhead provide river fishing opportunities for a good part of the year, brown trout are popular with small-boat and pier anglers in spring and fall and lake trout can provide reliable fishing for big-lake trollers when other species are not available.

In addition to angling interests, the lake trout, albeit a different strain, are native to Lake Michigan, whereas the other stocked salmon and trout are not. Lake trout numbers are maintained entirely through stocking and there is some concern that cutting lake trout stocking would not be consistent with rehabilitation goals. Where does this leave us?

 Fisheries managers are asking for public input on recommendations for future lake-wide stocking efforts that will limit the risk of a collapse in the fishery. Educated opinions regarding which species to cut are important because the ultimate goal of balancing predators and prey can be attained in a variety of ways. One strategy that has not been used in the past is a feedback policy that would allow for higher stocking rates when alewife are plentiful.

 Details regarding many options which are under consideration will be discussed by The Illinois Department of Natural Resources who is holding an informational public meeting to examine the status of both the perch and salmon fishery.  Lake Michigan is changing and there will be a presentation and an open discussion for questions on concerns that we might have.

 The meeting will be held on Thursday, November 15th at 7:00 PM at 9511 Harrison Street, in Des Plaines, Illinois.  Please park on the south side of the building and enter through the south doors.

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