State fisheries biologists hope to improve coho salmon fishing in Indiana by stocking larger cohos into the St. Joseph River this spring.
Indiana DNR has stocked coho salmon fingerlings into Lake Michigan and its tributaries since the 1970s, previously done in the fall.
The purpose of stocking yearlings in the spring is to help the stocked cohos avoid predation and other environmental hazards as they migrate out of the St. Joseph River and into Lake Michigan.
Approximately 60,000 fish that are 16 months old fish and 7.5 to 9 inches long will be released from the Bodine State Fish Hatchery into the St. Joseph River during the last week of March.
Once reaching Lake Michigan, they will feed and grow rapidly, with a small portion reaching early maturity as 2-year-old fish. These early maturing “jacks” will make their spawning run up the St. Joseph River this fall.
The fish that do not mature and spawn in 2016 will continue growing in the lake, and will contribute to the southern Lake Michigan open-water fishery in 2017.
Since these fish will be stocked in waters that are heavily fished in the spring, anglers are encouraged to handle the recently stocked fish carefully and release them unharmed, to maximize the chances that fishing remains good in the future.
These coho salmon are missing their adipose fin, which will allow biologists to evaluate the success of this new stocking strategy over the next three years.
Biologists and hatchery staff believe this production change will bolster the fall salmon returns on the St. Joseph River, while also benefiting Indiana’s spring coho fishery on Lake Michigan.
source: Indiana Department of Natural Resources