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Lake Michigan salmon strong, so far

May 12, 2010 at 09:46 PM

DETROIT — Prospects for Lake Michigan’s salmon fishing this summer are good to excellent, with plenty of fish, good weights early in the season and a baitfish supply that should keep the game fish going for at least a couple of more years.

The only setback has been weather, with windy frontal systems raking the big lake nearly every weekend.

Denny Blue, who runs True Blue charters out of Onekama, Mich., said, “Just about every day we’ve got wind or rain or something. But when the boats can get out, they’re catching fish. People did very well on brown trout in March. Now it’s a mix of kings, lake trout and browns.

“They had a tournament at Michigan City, Ind., (at the southern end of Lake Michigan) last weekend, and they caught a lot of lakers but fewer cohos than usual. They did get several fish over 15 pounds and one over 18, which is good for this early in the year. And they have caught some 18- to 20-pound kings between Onekama and Manistee. This fish will be 25 pounds by July.”

In the late 1990s, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment realized that natural salmon reproduction from streams on the Michigan side of the lake was at least equal to the number of fish being planted, and that there was a danger the lake could become so overpopulated by salmon that the prey base would crash.

Blue said the DNRE cut the salmon plants in half a few years ago, and it has paid dividends. “Now there’s plenty of food for the salmon, and they’re healthier,” he said. “It turned out to have been the smart thing to do.”

Jim Dexter, a resource manager for the DNRE, said, “The reports we’re getting are that the fish are even healthier than last year, when they were up several pounds from the year before. They’re already catching chinooks up to 18 pounds, and they’re catching chinooks as far north as Manistee. That’s really unusual for this early.

“Last year we had the highest catch rates in 14 years. There’s no reason that it shouldn’t continue to produce good numbers.”

While overall baitfish numbers dropped again this spring, Dexter said the salmon still have plenty of alewives from hatches in 2003 and 2005 that survived pretty well. “The last couple of years, the alewives haven’t done anything (in terms of reproduction), but that’s pretty normal,” he said. “You don’t need a big alewife hatch every year. One great year class can sustain the (salmon) fishery for years. That happened back in the early 2000s, when we had several years of excellent salmon fishing that lived off the 1998 alewife hatch.”

Asked if he thought the salmon fishing would hold up next year, Dexter said, “I’ll only go one year at a time. If the alewives fail to produce a good hatch again next year, I’ll start to worry.”

Ken Neidlinger, who runs Silverking Fishing Charters out of St. Joseph near the southern end of Lake Michigan, said, “Most of the boats are doing well. We’re getting chinook and coho and a few steelhead and lakers. You could get a lot more lakers if you slowed down and fished for them, but most people want salmon. I hope it is like last year. The kings were 4-5 pounds heavier than in 2008, and instead of 3-pound cohos, they were 4-6 pounds.

“The only problem has been the weather. It’s been unbelievably windy. Today (Friday), it’s blowing about 35 knots and 32 degrees.”

Ed Rasmussen is a Chicago angler who fishes the Michigan shoreline from South Haven to Ludington, and this year he has managed to make three trips in his new 24-foot center console.

“It’s been really good,” he said. “I’m a salesman and work out of a home office, so when I see a good weather window I can call a couple of fishing buddies and be out on the lake the next day.

“Our first trip was out of South Haven, and we landed nine kings and a dozen cohos in less than 6 hours. We mostly fished 120 feet of water, and we were marking fish all the time. I was kind of surprised that we didn’t see more fish closer to shore, but we didn’t see any bait inshore, either, so that’s probably the answer.”

Neidlinger said, “Usually at this time of year we see alewives right in off the pier heads. But this year they’ve been out in 70, 80 feet of water. The same thing happened last year. They just never came in.”

Asked why he thought that happened, Neidlinger said, “Beats me.”

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

This is the best salmon season I can remember from the shore.  From the beginning of april until about a week ago we were catching coho salmon almost every time we went out.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 05/13 at 06:58 AM

Ibc I don’t think anyone knows, the opinions range from the sky will fall to very little impact and I think that is why the politicians keep throwing money at it and going to court at least it looks like they’re doing something. There could be some new info out there but I posted some opinions of the smart people in A WHOLE LOT OF CARPING 2/16/10 search ASIAN CARP. I am glad they’re catching fish; I’ve had the chance to go on a charter just never did it.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 05/13 at 07:45 AM

@ GalenaBob,

No but I can recomment two captains out of Kenosha.  I’ve fished w/ both and they’re awesome. 

Chip Porter

Jeb Kaiser

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 05/13 at 09:24 AM

They had a video on here with in the past year or so on how to clean them, the meat looked pretty white to me. A few cold Bud’s and they probably wouldn’t be to bad. I would eat one of them before trying Sushi.I have started going fishing in WI. with a friend of mine,(Sturgeon Bay)I know there are a ton of regular carp in Lake Michigan, But I am wondering how the Asian will reproduce in the much colder water of the Lakes! I have seen other posts on here also saying they think some of the game fish in the rivers are tasting better from eating some of the smaller Asian fish than feeding on the Shad. Will anyone agree/disagree with that?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 05/13 at 04:09 PM

Once they are in the big lakes, the real problem is every tributary and connected inland lake gets them eventually.  The big lakes may handle them.  Let’s not kid ourselves that its only a big lake issue.

As time goes by, any chance of knocking them back goes away.  Sadly it sounds like though the fish population is too far established already. 

As one post said earlier, politicians throw money at the issue.  Since when did politicians do anything else.  They just spend our money on things they deem important, said more exactly, on things the lobbyists think important.  If states wait for Congress to do anything, the final score will be known before the game ever starts.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 05/13 at 09:23 PM

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