Expect good fishing on Great Lakes

Great Lakes —  Anglers statewide can expect good fishing on all of the Great Lakes this summer, with Lake Huron possibly leading the way.

Lake Huron

“We’re already receiving good reports of walleye and steelhead catches,” Todd Grischke, the DNR’s Lake Huron basin coordinator, told Michigan Outdoor News. “Walleye populations are strong in the middle of the lake and north of Thunder Bay, and the steelhead population is also doing well.”

Net pen studies conducted by DNR biologists have led to techniques that improved survival rates of stocked chinook salmon and steelhead. The pens essentially are cages that hold immature fish. The

DNR works with local volunteer groups to feed the fish, monitor their activity, and record growth rates. After smolting, the salmon are released into the lake.

All penned fish are marked and fin-clipped. Anglers who catch a salmon or steelhead missing a fin are asked to cut the head off and give it to a creel clerk, or freeze it and drop it off at a DNR regional office.

Those who will be on Lake Huron this summer also will find good numbers of Atlantic salmon, which annually are stocked in the St. Mary’s River. Because of habitat and forage base changes across the lake, the DNR has greatly reduced the number of chinook salmon it stocks. In 2012, only the Cheboygan River, Nunn’s Creek, and Swan Creek were stocked. Chinook have virtually disappeared from the southern two-thirds of the lake.

Lake trout and smallmouth bass are in good supply in Lake Huron. Both types of fish feed on gobies, an invasive species found throughout the Great Lakes.

Lake Michigan

Due to declines in prey fish like alewife and smelt, fewer chinook salmon are expected to be found in Lake Michigan than last year. Instead, some anglers are focusing their energy on steelhead.

“Last year, we saw better-than-average steelhead fishing, and that should continue in 2012,” said Jay Wesley, the DNR’s Lake Michigan basin coordinator.

Like chinook salmon, brown trout fishing likely will be down this summer. But if your hook is set for brownies, target deep waters where colder temperatures and gobies provide good habitat for them.

Also look for increasing numbers of decent-sized walleyes to gather along pier heads.

“Because of the clear water, walleye fishing is basically a night activity on Lake Michigan,” Wesley added.

Yellow perch fishing should be similar to what it was in 2011. Anglers will have to sort through a lot of small ones to get to the keepers, but they’ll still be able to bring home enough for a perch fry.

Lake Superior

“Because nothing exceptional has changed with the forage base or population of prey species, the fishing in Lake Superior will be similar to last year,” said Phil Schneeberger, the DNR’s Lake Superior basin coordinator.

Expect lake trout to dominate the catch, with good numbers and sizes available to anglers. The coho salmon population in Superior also is healthy, but don’t be surprised if catch rates are slightly lower than last year. Habitat loss has taken a toll on cohos, but conditions may be improving.

“Based on USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) trawl studies, the forage base appears to be getting better,” Schneeberger said. “This means the decline we’ve witnessed over the last 15 years is reversing direction, so hopefully we’ll see improved fish numbers in upcoming years.”

Anglers also will find a good supply of whitefish available in the largest of the Great Lakes this summer. Both the number and size of whitefish should be similar to last year.

Lake Erie

Like Lake Superior, summer fishing in Lake Erie will be comparable to last year. Fish management for Lake Erie is a multi-state and Canadian providence collaborative effort, with researchers working together to derive population estimates and catch limits.

“We estimate that the number of fish in Lake Erie will be slightly down from last year, but this won’t negatively impact fishing,” said Jim Francis, fisheries biologist for the DNR.

According to Francis, the 2003 class of walleyes will be driving the fishing. Anglers will find ample numbers of huge ‘eyes ripe for the catching.

“The downside in this is that anecdotally we’ve found that the bigger fish tend to spawn earlier in the summer than other fish do,” Francis added. “Once they spawn, they’ll be moving out.”

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