MI: Outlook bright for GL anglers

Lansing – Great Lakes anglers are gearing up for what many
expect to be another good season of summer fishing. While it’s no
secret that the fisheries are changing in many areas of the Great
Lakes, that doesn’t mean those changes are all negative. Anglers
are adapting to the changing fisheries and continue to put
delicious, nutritious fish in their coolers.

Following is a brief look at what anglers can expect when fishing
Michigan waters of the Great Lakes this summer.

Lake Michigan

“The overall picture for Lake Michigan is that I think fishing will
be similar to last year, with coho fishing being a little better
and perch fishing being a little better with bigger sizes,” Jay
Wesley, the DNR’s acting Lake Michigan Basin coordinator told
Michigan Outdoor News. “If there is a low point, it would be brown
trout.”

Coho salmon fishing has been very good so far this spring, and that
gives fisheries managers hope that the summer fishery also will be
improved.

“Coho fishing this year has been fantastic in the south part of the
lake. Anglers have said it’s been the best fishing in 10 years,”
Wesley said. “We had a good alewife year class last year, so the
coho fishing has been good. Hopefully, those fish will continue to
move north and provide anglers up north with good coho
fishing.”

Chinook salmon fishing in Lake Michigan should be similar to last
year, according to Wesley.

“We’re hoping to see a few more mature fish this year, and a better
return of mature fish into the rivers in the fall,” he said. “Last
year, we feel we had a bad year-class. The summer fishing was real
good, but we started hearing complaints in the fall with a low
return of adult fish.”

Wesley doesn’t expect to see any changes in the steelhead fishery
this summer, other than perhaps lighter pressure on the fish.

“It’s always been a good fishery, but typically they hit the slick
lines (temperature breaks) out over deeper water up to 200 and 300
feet,” Wesley said. “With gas prices the way they are, I don’t
expect to see a lot of boats going out there after them. But for
those willing to make the trip, the fish will be there.”

Yellow perch numbers in Lake Michigan continue to surprise
biologists as the fishery rebounds from several years of dismal
catch rates.

“We’ve had a couple of good year-classes and it should be another
good year for fishing at ports like St Joseph, South Haven, and
Grand Haven,” Wesley said. “Last year, anglers were catching a lot
of 6- to 8-inch fish, and those fish should be around 9 inches this
year.”

Increased near-shore stocking of lake trout by both the DNR and the
feds should equate to better lake trout fishing in the lake.

“We’ve seen some decent catches of lake trout,” Wesley said. “The
near-shore fishery is getting better.”

The only negative trend in the lake this year could be the brown
trout fishery. Early reports indicate that fishing success has
been, “OK, but not gangbusters,” Wesley said. “It’s a species that
doesn’t provide the return we’d like, but anglers want us to
continue to stock them.”

Lake Superior

The good thing about Lake Superior is that it’s a stable lake and
fisheries haven’t changed much in recent history.

“We should continue to see good lake trout and salmon fishing,”
said Steve Scott, the DNR’s Lake Superior Basin coordinator.

Scott says the lake trout population in Lake Superior is healthy
and the fish have pretty much reached their carrying
capacity.

“It may have declined a little in the past five years, but overall
it’s pretty stable,” Scott said.

Steelhead fishing was very good last fall and again this spring,
and Scott believes that will mean good summer catches.

Most of the salmon caught in Lake Superior are naturally reproduced
cohos, although the state does some limited chinook stocking.

“I’ve heard some pretty good reports about the coho fishing this
spring, and it should continue into the summer,” Scott said. “They
should catch a few chinook, too, but that will be in localized
areas.”

Anglers are reminded that there are a couple of new regulations in
effect this summer on the Michigan waters of Lake Superior. Anglers
may keep just one lake trout 34 inches or larger, and the minimum
size limit for splake has been increased from 10 inches to 15
inches.

Lake Huron

The fishery continues to change on Lake Huron, but that doesn’t
mean the fishing has been bad – just different. Walleyes have
overtaken king salmon as the favorite target of charter boat
captains. And while a fair number of king salmon are still caught,
the catch is being complemented these days by a mixed bag of cohos,
Atlantics, lakers, browns, and steelhead. None of these species by
themselves are producing great catches, but when combined, anglers
can expect a good mixed bag.

In the absence of alewives, the walleye population in Huron has
exploded.

“Walleyes are going gangbusters; yellow perch, while not quite
going gangbusters, are producing very well,” said Todd Grischke,
the DNR’s Lake Huron Basin coordinator. “Smallmouth bass are going
crazy. Rainbow trout (steelhead) are increasing, and lake trout are
increasing.”

Since the alewife crash in Lake Huron in 2005, salmon and trout
numbers have plummeted, and the lake-wide fishery has been
evolving.

“Salmon conditions and sizes are returning, but the numbers remain
low,” said Jim Johnson, a fisheries research biologist stationed at
Alpena. “

Walleye fishing should continue to lead the way on Lake Huron, with
the most pressure coming from anglers in Saginaw Bay and Alpena.
But while walleye numbers are growing, the perch fishery in Saginaw
Bay is taking a bit of a hit.

“We have a good walleye population in Saginaw Bay, but since
alewife numbers are down, walleyes are eating the perch, so the
perch numbers are down,” Johnson said. “However, the perch that are
in the bay are growing well above the state average.”

Anglers are reminded that lake trout and splake regulations have
changed in northern Lake Huron.

Anglers fishing in MH- 1 will be allowed to keep three lake trout
and/or splake daily with a minimum size limit of 10 inches and a
maximum size limit of 24 inches, except that one of the three fish
may be 32 inches or greater. Previously, the maximum size limit was
27 inches.

The new lake trout and splake regulations supersede the regulations
printed in the 2011 Michigan Fishing Guide.

Lake Erie

Walleyes fuel the fishing activity in the Western Basin of Lake
Erie, where Michigan’s waters lie. The outlook for the summer is
pretty good, with good numbers of walleyes being predicted. In
fact, the outlook is so bright that fisheries managers raised the
daily creel limit for walleyes in Michigan waters from five fish
per angler last year to six fish per angler as of May 1.

“We found out this spring that last year’s projections had changed
dramatically, so we were able to make this change,” said DNR
Fisheries Division Chief Kelley Smith.

The daily bag limit is based on Michigan’s share of the lake-wide
total allowable catch (TAC). The TAC is determined by the Lake Erie
Committee, which is made up of fisheries managers from the states
and Canadian provinces that border Lake Erie. For 2011, Michigan’s
TAC is 170,000 pounds.

Smallmouth bass fishing also should be very good this year in Lake
Erie, although few anglers target them.

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