Wisconsin Chinook Salmon – Lake Trout Research

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The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is encouraging anglers to aid critical fisheries research by donating the heads of trout and salmon they harvest.

The heads of stocked Chinook salmon and lake trout are being sought as part of an ongoing and collaborative effort lake-wide to document fish behavior and provide information that will aid in management of the fishery.

Mid-summer is an important time for data collection because salmon from throughout Lake Michigan and parts of Lake Huron travel to Wisconsin’s shores to feed on alewives.

“We are seeing large numbers of chinook salmon coming into the region’s ports as well as steelhead, coho, brown trout and lake trout. Anglers are reporting that this is shaping up to be one of the best years of fishing in at least the last three years,” said Brad Eggold, DNR Great Lakes district fisheries supervisor.

“Given other data that show changes in the populations of prey fish, it is more important than ever for us to gather as much information as possible and we need anglers’ help to learn what’s going on in the lake. The tags in the snouts of the stocked chinook salmon and lake trout tell us when and where the fish were stocked plus other valuable information.”

Only harvested fish missing the small back top fin, known as the adipose fin, are being sought, because the missing fin is a sign that the fish likely received a tag in its snout.

For several years now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state natural resource agencies have been marking hatchery-raised Chinook and lake trout by safely implanting a tiny steel tag etched with a number that tells where and when the fish was hatched and stocked.

The effort is funded through a grant to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Several ages and sizes of tagged Chinook salmon are now available for anglers to catch, making this an important time to collect Chinook salmon and lake trout heads to look for the steel tags.

DNR has partnered with local businesses in most major ports along the lakeshore to provide convenient locations for anglers to drop off fish heads. The businesses have been given forms for anglers to fill out and bags to use for freezing the heads. Anglers should include the following information with each head – date and location of capture, along with the fish species, length, weight and gender.

Nick Legler, DNR Lake Michigan fisheries biologist, said the research effort will help biologists evaluate how many wild and stocked fish are in Lake Michigan and the distances they travel to feed. The data also will be used to measure fish growth, survival and age at capture as well as analyze hatchery and stocking practices.

Initial findings from the research show that during the summer months, Wisconsin anglers benefit from chinook stocked in other states as those fish migrate here to feed. In addition, Wisconsin-stocked salmon survive at above average rates and contribute to the state’s fall fishery when they return to the water where they were first stocked to spawn.

Currently, wild Chinook account for about 70 percent of the lake-wide population. The vast majority of these wild fish are from spawning in Michigan and Ontario streams with a more minor component coming from Wisconsin streams.

In addition to learning more about Chinook, comments from recreational anglers and charter captains who attended recent Lake Michigan stakeholder meetings indicated strong interest in developing more robust information about lake trout abundance and impact on prey species.

Eggold said the coded wire tag research will further efforts by DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to understand lake trout populations and their impact on Lake Michigan prey fish.

Fish Head Collection Locations

Baileys Harbor: Town Marina, 8132 Hwy. 57,920-839-9778.
Franklin: Gander Mountain, 6939 S. 27th St., 414-761-1500.
Green Bay: DNR Service Center, 2984 Shawano Ave., 920-662-5100,Monday – Friday 8:30 am to 4 p.m.
Kenosha: Boat House Pub and Eatery, 4917 7thAve., 262-654-9922.
Kewaunee: Accurate Marine and Storage, 203 DodgeSt., 920-388-2326.
Marinette: A&K Feed, Seed & Bait, 1616Shore Drive, 715-732-6100.
Milwaukee: DNR Office at UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences, 600 E. Greenfield Ave., 414-382-7929, Hours vary,call first.
Peshtigo: DNR, 101 N. Ogden Road, 715-82-5001,Monday – Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Peshtigo: Peshtigo Shell Gas Station, 815 FrenchSt., 715-82-3681.
Port Washington: Port Washington Marina, 106 N. LakeSt., 262-284-6606.
Plymouth: DNR Satellite Center, 1155 Pilgrim Road,920-892-8756, Monday – Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Racine: Kortendick Ace Hardware, 3806 DouglasAve., 262-639-4820.
Sheboygan: The Wharf, 733 Riverfront Drive, 920-458-4406.
Sturtevant: DNR, 9531 Rayne Road Suite 4, 262-884-2300,Hours: Monday – Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sturgeon Bay: DNR, 110 S. Neenah Ave., 920-746-2860,Monday – Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sturgeon Bay: Howie’s Tackle, 1309 Green Bay Road, 920-746-9916.
Two Rivers: Seagull Sports Marina, 1400 Lake St, 920-794-7533.

Anglers are also encouraged to allow DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service technicians working at tournaments and fish cleaning stations to process their catches to collect this valuable information.

source: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources