MAILBAG: How much salmon was released this year?

Mark Brooky • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:48 AM

s? I cannot find any information on the DNR's website."


The Grand Haven Steelheaders informed me that 75,000 Chinook (king) salmon were placed into the Grand River at Grand Haven this year in what they call "upstream direct planting," and 175,000 were placed in the river from net pens.

In Holland, 45,000 were placed from net pens.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources also placed coho salmon in the river.

Roger and Mary Jane Belter of the Grand Haven Steelheaders said the number of Chinook planted in all of the states bordering Lake Michigan will be reduced next year.

The Grand River in Grand Haven will receive 59,000 from net pens in 2013, a 66.3 percent reduction; and none upstream. Holland will receive 15,000, a 66.7 percent reduction.

Under the lakewide plan, the 3.3 million Chinook salmon annually stocked in total in Lake Michigan by the four states would be reduced to 1.7 million starting in 2013.

"This reduction is essential in helping to maintain the balance between predator and prey fish populations in Lake Michigan," said Jim Dexter, Michigan DNR Fisheries Division chief. "These reductions are necessary to maintain the lake's diverse fishery."

To read the state agency's full explanation on the reduction, click here.

What are net pens? The Belters explained that the fish are held for 3-4 weeks in net pens and fed three times a day by volunteers.

"In Grand Haven, our net pens are (temporarily) place in slip No. 1 at the Municipal Marina," Mary Jane said. "The fish are fed and cared for until they smolt and lose their parr marks (vertical bars on the body). Typically the net rearing lasts 3-4 weeks before they are released into the Grand River."

The Belters said the salmon almost immediately begin feeding on their own after being released, targeting fresh bug hatches, as they make their way out to Lake Michigan.

"From studies conducted, it has been determined that the fish fed and acclimated in the net pens have a dramatic improvement in return rates compared to fish planted directly in the river," Mary Jane said.

Biologists with the Fisheries Division of the DNR have indicated that, "Based on coded-wire tag data analysis from Michigan's studies during the 1990s, net pens in Lake Michigan tend to produce higher effective survival rates to the lake fishery than direct stockings to receiving waters. The results of these evaluations showed that fish cultured in net pens provide almost twice the survival rate of direct stockings.”

The Grand Haven net pen project is a result of the partnership of the DNR's Fisheries Division, Grand Haven Steelheaders, Grand Rapids Steelheaders, Metro West Steelheaders, Grand Haven Charter Boat Association, the Grand Haven Off Shore Challenge fishing tournament and the City of Grand Haven.

Through the net pen project, fishing opportunities on Lake Michigan and the Port of Grand Haven are greatly enhanced for all anglers, the Belters said.

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