Hatchery failure shouldnt hurt Munising Bay fish stocking
By JOHN PEPIN, Journal Munising Bureau
and The Associated Press 3/10/04
MUNISING Despite the loss of 458,000 coho salmon yearlings in a downstate hatchery pump failure last weekend, salmon stocking for a pilot program in Munising Bay will continue as scheduled this spring.
Because the Department (of Natural Resources) is committed to the pilot stocking program for the next five years, they will stock it at the 25,000 capacity this year, said Munisings John Madigan, a member of the Natural Resources Commission, the rulemaking body for the DNR.
Last April, the DNR stocked just over 25,000 coho fingerlings in the Anna River, south of Munising Bay. The effort was made to diversify fish populations in Lake Superior in an attempt to relieve some sportfishing pressure on lake trout.
During the pump failure at the Platte River Fish Hatchery, the DNR lost nearly half of this years coho salmon production. The 458,000 coho yearlings, which would have been stocked within a month, died last weekend when a pump that recirculates the water in the raceways continued to run but quit pumping water, Booth News Service reported.
Because the pumps motor was running, it failed to trigger the alarm that would have alerted DNR personnel at their homes. No one was on duty when the pump failure occurred, sometime between 4 p.m. Sunday and 7 a.m. Monday.
The hatchery is undergoing an $8.5 million renovation. The yearling cohos that died were the first production cycle of the newly renovated raceways.
We know what the problem is, and were rapidly fixing it, said Gary Whelan, who runs the DNRs hatchery program.
The Platte River facility near Beulah is the only state hatchery dedicated to coho salmon. The DNR had hoped to raise 1.2 million coho this year, all but 25,000 for Lake Michigan. There are 610,000 fingerlings left at the hatchery, almost all of which will be stocked in the Platte River.
The weir on the Platte River is the only place the DNR collects coho eggs. It also collects eggs for Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana hatcheries.
The cohos were to be planted in Lake Michigan at the Galien, St. Joseph, Boardman, Grand and Manistee rivers as well as Portage Lake. The additional 25,000 were planned for Munising Bay.
Madigan said the DNR will acquire coho yearlings from other hatcheries to stock Munising Bay.
Because this is a five-year pilot program, its critical that we keep planting that same amount each year so it doesnt skew our results, Madigan said.
The hatchery accident should not affect fishing this year.
The anglers will feel this in 2005, Jim Dexter, the acting chief of fisheries for the DNR, said. There will be a decline in the catch. (But) this should not have any effect on our egg-taking capabilities, which is of primary importance.
The accident will also not deter the efforts of the South Shore Fishing Association, which is trying to secure coho plants of 100,000 fish for Lake Superior for five years.
We didnt expect to get anything this year, said Dan Cook, president of the association. Were looking to the future. Lake Superior has just got to have more (coho), whether thats in Marquette or Munising.
In years past, coho stocking was done at many Great Lakes ports, with disappointing results. Munising Bay salmon stocking was stopped in 1993.
State fisheries biologists say that no changes have taken place that would necessarily make the coho stocking more successful this a time around. In fact, there are several problems involved.
Natural strains of salmon typically compete better than hatchery fish in the food chain. Lake trout numbers, both fat and lean varieties, have increased in Lake Superior and those lake trout have been preying on small salmon. There are also new concerns about declining forage bases for predatory fish in the Great Lakes, Scott said.
But despite these potential drawbacks, fisheries experts want to experiment with Munising Bay. If the program is successful, the coho stocking efforts will continue.
Beulah is located in northern Lower Michigan, about 30 miles west of Traverse City.