Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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MI: Wind, warmth plagues Michigan salmon fishing

Muskegon, Mich. – A disappointing salmon run this year likely
was the result of a combination of warm Lake Michigan waters that
delayed the upstream migration and stocking reductions in recent
years, state officials said.

“I think basically it was a very difficult year for most
anglers. The water was not cooperative at all, both with the
temperature and the wind,” said Jim Dexter, Lake Michigan basin
coordinator for the DNRE.

“The majority of people I’ve talked to have … complaints about
the poor fishery in the last two months and the lack of bigger
fish,” Dexter said. “Our returns to the weirs … seem to be up
from last year, but most of the run came in four to six weeks later
than normal.

“Those fish are typically coming back in September … but they
didn’t show up until mid-October,” he said.

North Muskegon fisherman Bill Gaston said the best part of the
season was July and early August, but the warm water kept most
people in deeper water. Quagga mussels contributed to unprecedented
water clarity, which also was an issue, he said.

“The techniques required a lot more of a stealthy presentation
because of the clear water. There was a lot of copper line being
used,” Gaston said. “There was still a good salmon fishery, just
perhaps not the same numbers as in the past. We just had a
disappointing fall run.

“I think size was improved, or maybe about the same as last
year.”

Charter captain Denny Grinold said fishing was decent when
weather was favorable, but windy conditions caused a lot of charter
cancellations up and down the Lake Michigan coastline.

“I probably lost 34 percent of my charters due to windy
conditions,” Grinold said. “Another thing that stood out was the
lack of adult salmon. In August, when they usually stage, it just
wasn’t happening.

“They just simply weren’t there, and it was all over (Lake
Michigan),” including Wisconsin waters where temperatures were
cooler, he said.

Grinold, state affairs officer for the Michigan Charter Boat
Association, said the latter part of the season was spent trolling
200 to 300 feet deep about eight to 10 miles off shore.

“We were catching next year’s salmon … which exacerbates the
problem,” Grinold said.

He said many captains are concerned about the lake’s shrinking
forage base, but “have been seeing more bait this year than
before,” and are optimistic about next year.

Dexter said the apparent increase in alewives and fewer adult
fish is an indication that “our management direction is going
exactly where we wanted to. We wanted less fish available to keep
in line with the forage base.”

Overall, the season actually produced slightly better catch
rates than last year, according to charter data through the end of
September, with an average of roughly 15 salmon per 100 angler
hours.

“We knew we had low numbers of chinook that survived from the
last two year-classes. We predicted that would happen,” Dexter
said. “It appears that we had a rather successful spawn with
alewives … so if they survive the winter, there’s lots of
forage.

“Our prediction for next year is we’re going to have more fish
and bigger fish.”

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