“This is a joint project between Grand Haven and Grand Rapids Steelheaders,” said Roger Belter, president of Grand Haven Steelheaders. “We had 59,000 (fingerlings delivered). We’ll hold them for 3-4 weeks and feed them three times a day, and when they’re ready to smolt ... then we release them.”
According to the DNR, stocking of fish is used as a tool to restore, enhance and create new fishing opportunities in Michigan’s inland lakes, streams and the Great Lakes. The DNR’s Fisheries Division rears fish at its six fish production facilities located throughout the state, cooperatively managing up to 50 rearing ponds and 13 imprinting net pen locations, and maintaining a fleet of 18 specialized fish-stocking vehicles.
Over the course of a year, the DNR will stock roughly 20 million to 25 million fish, collectively weighing nearly 400 tons, including eight species of trout and salmon, and four cool-water species such as walleye and muskellunge. Beginning in mid-March and ending in early June, the DNR fish-stocking trucks will travel more than 100,000 miles to stock between 700 and 1,100 locations.
According to Belter, the 59,000 fingerlings delivered to Grand Haven this year is the same amount as 2015 — a year in which they saw a reduction in the number of fish delivered.
“They’ve cut the number down over the years,” he said. “They’re worried about the lake and the forage base out there. That’s why we have less fish now.”
Belter, who noted that the Steelheaders group has been behind the net pen project for more than 30 years, said they brought in as much as 200,000 fingerlings a year in the past.
He said the DNR is keeping a close eye on salmon population in the lakes in order to determine the best stocking methods.
Michigan Sea Grant educator Dan O’Keefe said that despite the changes in salmon population numbers, charter fishing remains strong.
“The number of charter trips taken in Michigan waters of Lake Michigan last year actually increased,” he said. “It was a modest uptick, but in 2014, captains logged 12,193 trips, and this increased to 12,758 trips in 2015, according to the latest stats from Michigan DNR.”
O’Keefe noted that Grand Haven charter captains took 1,590 trips last year, which is about the annual average for the past five years.