What it takes to Stock Millions of Lake Trout Every Year
BY CAREY EDWARDS, IRON RIVER NFH
Growing and stocking lake trout is a vastly complicated process that starts years in advance before the fish are even created. It doesn’t just happen at the local Department of Natural Resources or Fish and Wildlife Office, it encompasses a plethora of state, federal, and tribal agencies as well as conservation clubs and other organizations. Managing inter-jurisdictional fisheries can be tricky. A federal court order, called the 2000 Consent Decree, was negotiated between the state of Michigan and five Chippewa and Ottawa tribes to set forth standards in managing the fishery in 1836 Treaty waters of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron with the Fish and Wildlife Service being the United States representative for implementation of the Decree. All of these groups work together to evaluate the fisheries, assess the status of fish stocks, establish harvest limits, stock fish and control parasitic sea lamprey which is all part of restoring lake trout in the Great Lakes.
where they will receive a coded wire tag
and adipose fin clip before being stocked
into the Great Lakes. Credit: USFWS
From a hatchery standpoint, decisions are made years in advance on how many brood fish are needed to meet future goals for egg production and how often gametes are to be collected from the wild to keep hatchery stock genetically sound. Decisions are also made as to what strain of lake trout will be raised and where it will be stocked and often times, studies are conducted with multiple strains of lake trout at a given site to determine what type of lake trout survives better. These studies could not be completed without the mass marking program which began in 2010. It is a coordinated effort between all jurisdictions to mark (tag or clip) all trout and salmon stocked in the Great Lakes to evaluate whether a fish caught in an assessment is a native or hatchery fish. Information gathered from tagged fish could impact the type of lake trout and how many are being stocked from each hatchery.
Putting aside all the planning and technology that takes place at each hatchery to make and grow a healthy lake trout to stocking size, whether it leaves as a shore stocked fall fingerling or as a yearling or is stocked off of the M/V Spencer F. Baird as part of the main distribution season, the planning and collaborative processes that takes place is commendable. Nearly a dozen Fish and Wildlife, Coast Guard and Department of Natural Resource offices work together in what is nearly a three month operation to stock fish on reefs in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The end result is the stocking of approximately 4.4 million lake trout, and we are in the process of making it happen all over again, next year.