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Proposed increase in Chinook salmon stocking moves forward

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Interlochen Public Radio
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Pacific salmon were introduced to Lake Michigan in the '60s in an attempt to control the growing alewife population

Lake Michigan anglers could soon get more bites. Chinook salmon stocking is likely to increase by more than 50 percent this spring.

Last year, about 650,000 Chinooks were released from state hatcheries. At a public hearing Monday night, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources proposed increasing that number to 1 million.

Chinook salmon are native to the Pacific Ocean. They were introduced to Lake Michigan in the 1960s to control an overpopulation of alewives, a herring native to to the Atlantic Ocean.

In the late 90s, the DNR added around 3 million Chinook salmon to Lake Michigan every year.

The reduction since then has been a precautionary measure; too many salmon could mean a total collapse of the alewife population. That’s exactly what happened in Lake Huron in 2004. A similar collapse in Lake Michigan would be a big blow to the state's $7 billion sport fishing industry, which relies on well-fed salmon.

But the state says alewife numbers have increased – and now Chinook’s should, too.

Locations that could see more stocking include the Little Manistee, Boardman and Big Sable rivers as well as Medusa Creek in Charlevoix.

Public comment on Monday overwhelmingly supported the proposal. It next goes before a board of biologists and a citizens advisory council before it can get the green light from the DNR’s chief of fisheries.