South Haven Salmon Work Shop



A great day in early May in 2012

On Thursday, last week, I made the 3.5-hour drive to South Haven attend the South Haven workshop put on by Michigan Seagrant and the South Haven Steelheaders. I wanted information so I would have better knowledge of what the government is saying and what I am seeing. The meeting was very informative and very interesting.


We received a lot of information about the Great Lakes and what is going on underneath the surface. The first thing to go over was the Prey fish in Lake Michigan. The USCG Great Lakes Science Center provided stats about how the Prey fish are doing and what is going on below the surface. If you have been following this subject for the last 10 years, nothing is new. The whole bottom of the food chain has shrunk since the mid-80’s and is now at an all time low. They are saying the Salmon and Alewives have reached maximum carry capacity.



An amazing day of river salmon fishing back in 2006

Some notes I took down were the baitfish populations plummeting in the mid 80’s. I also noted that the Salmon and Alewive ratio is near the same ratio when Lake Huron crashed. What surprised me was the fact that the bait fish population really shrunk in the 1980s and 2005 – 2012 we had some of the best salmon fish ever.


The next thing they talked about was the mass marking of these fish. Basically they went over how the fish are marked and then talked about how this information is used. This is used to determine the degree of natural reproduction for Lake Trout and Salmon. They also used it to track where these fish are being caught. What surprised me was how many of our stocked Kings are being found in Wisconsin waters in July and August when they should be heading home. What disappointed me was the fact that this program will no longer be marking Chinook salmon and switch over to steelhead next year. In my opinion, I think we need to find more data on the salmon more then steelhead considering the Salmon are near complete collapse.



Betsie Bay in 2012 during the low water year

What was interesting to me was the fact that Natural Reproduction fell by 80% in 2013. This started the year we had super low water levels in 2012. That 2013-year class of natural reproducing salmon is nowhere near the numbers it should be. We had a very low number of natural reproducing salmon in 2014 as well. Nothing was mentioned on why 2014 natural reproduction was down. The good thing is the 2015 year class looks good and is back to normal. This summer will tell if they made it or now.


The next thing the Seagrant went over was the Salmon Ambassadors program. This I felt was the most important subject. It’s basically a program asking us fisherman to keep track of our Chinook. They are asking us anglers to go out and get information for them on our fishing trips. It is very important that salmon anglers send in their information to figure out what to do with Lake Michigan Chinook fishery. If we don’t, we won’t have anybody to blame but ourselves. We need to get involved more then ever. Michigan Seagrant is asking us anglers to keep track of the amount of Chinook caught. They want to know if it has a adipose clipped and where it was caught. They would also like to know other information like depth, weight and sec. If you catch a stocked fish with a code wire tag in it, they want to know the bag number. Again, I feel this is very important for the health of our fishery. If you fish more then 10 times a year, you should be participate in this event and giving them as much accurate information about your kings. Every fish counts. If you don’t, the salmon could disappear.

For more information, you can go to this link below:

Salmon Ambassadors

The Michigan Seagrant is also asking for angler to take picture of their fish finders this year. If you are fishing and you come across a huge bait ball, take a picture and send it to Dr. Warner who is a Research Fisheries Biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Great Lakes Science Center
More information can be found in the link below:

There will also be a new app released in the coming years for us fisherman to let the DNR know of the fish we are catching.

Screen shot 2012-10-19 at 4.30.18 AM

©2012 Great Lakes Edge

Last but not least, Jay Wesley from the Michigan DNR updated on the management updates and developments of the Lake Michigan Management Plans. It was good to see that we had a good year of natural reproduction in Kings last year. We also had a average size alewive hatch last year which hopefully surivived this year. The bad news is the DNR is going to be reducing the amount of kings planted next year even more. All net pens will be cut.

Jay then went over a bunch of other information concerning other fish. I was surprised to see the Coho did so poorly as well last year. You would think since the coho eat other baitfish other then Alewives, they would be better off. Maybe it has nothing to do with Alewives?? They will be experimenting with coho fingerlings in the fall. The good news is, Lake Michigan will see 150,000 more steelhead this year.

Then the Lake trout were brought up. I was happy to see they are discontinuing 550,000 Lake Trout next year. I am disappointed to see so many alewive eating Lake Trout are going to be continued to plant. The good thing anglers are asking “why the hell plant more Lake Trout?”

Last but not least, here are some numbers for you concerning how much fish were stocked in 2015. From highest to lowest:



What is more the norm in early summer

3,330,000 –Lake Trout
1,813,300 – Chinook
2,610,000 – Coho
1,515,500 – Steelhead
1,407,000 – Brown Trout


Thank You to everyone who was involved in this meeting.

I believe this is the biggest year for salmon fishing. It would be a make it or break deal. If you care about the salmon fishery, this is the year you need to get involved. All you have to do is sign up for the Salmon Ambassador program and fish salmon as much as possible. This is the last year they will be marking these kings. Below is the link the find out more information:

Salmon Ambassadors

Thank You for reading! Please like and share this blog. Enjoy the nice spring weather were having and get fishing and keep track of your kings. Next blog will be some of my thoughts about the fishery. There might a trout opener post if I can put a good story together. Good Luck if you go out!

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