Lake Michigan Fisheries Forum Meeting

On Saturday, April 11th Lake Michigan stakeholders including the WDNR, USGS, NOAA, Wisconsin Sea Grant, Salmon Ambassadors, GLFC, charter boat captains, area fishing groups and more gathered together to discuss topics of interest involving Lake Michigan.  Below are notes taken during the meeting.

Lake Michigan Fisheries Forum (LMFF)

Lakeshore Technical College, Wells Fargo Room (L261)

Cleveland, WI

April 11, 2015

Agenda / Minutes

8:00a – Registration and Refreshments

8:30a – Introductions

  • 30-35 total individuals present.
  • TU represented through Henry Koltz, at least two Central individuals and Adrian Meseberg (GBTU).

8:45a – Coded Wire Tag Update (CWT) (USFWS – Matt Korris)


  • Lake trout tagging began in 2010, Chinook salmon started in 2011.
  • Coded wire tagged fish include an adipose clip.
  • Fish are tagged at a rate of 8,500 fish / hour.
  • Over 50,000 snouts have been processed…more than 46,000 CWTs recovered.
  • 2,953,814 chinook salmon tagged in 2014.
  • 6,412,006 lake trout tagged in 2014.


  • 2014 – 12,447 Chinook salmon examined…7097 without fin clip (60%).
  • 2014 – 4402 Lake trout examined…903 without fin clip (20.6%).
  • A higher percentage of unclipped Lake Trout in southern Lake Michigan.
  • The 2013 Chinook salmon year class poor. This is likely due to the fact that this group would have spawned in 2012 (a drought year) and may have been impacted by the 2013/14 tough winter.
  • Chinook salmon stocked in Green Bay do more poorly than those stocked in other areas of Lake Michigan (does not include fall runs…open water only).
  • Chinook salmon data through the summer month’s show, no matter where the fish were stocked, they spread throughout the Lake Michigan.
  • 11% of Chinook salmon recovered from Lake Michigan was stocked in Lake Huron (April-August only)…this demonstrates how much the fish spread.

Isotopic Study of Chinook salmon (moving forward this study is designed to…)

  • Examine diet overlap among species (i.e Lake trout v Chinook salmon).
  • Identify size and region specific patterns.
  • Identify potential differences b/n stocked and wild fish.
  • Compare diet overlap b/n Lake Michigan and Lake Huron fish.

9:45a – Salmon Ambassadors 2014 Update (WI Sea Grant – Titus Seilheimer)

  • 20% risk of crashing forage at old stocking levels led to reduced stocking numbers.
  • Salmon Ambassadors program is comprised of volunteers collecting salmon data in an effort to better manage the salmon fishery.
  • 2013 – Salmon Ambassadors pilot program…25 volunteers collected data on 1,152 Chinook salmon
  • 2014 – 125 volunteers…expecting data on 10,000 Chinook salmon.
  • Results of survey question…On a scale from 1-5 (1 being strongly disagree and 5 being strongly agree) how satisfied were you with salmon fishing this year (2014)? Results…Northern Lake Michigan – 4 out of 5 / Southern Lake Michigan – 2 out of 5.
  • What does 2015 hold for Lake Michigan Chinooks?
    • 2012 year-class (3 year olds) seems ok.
    • 2013 year class (2 year olds).
      • 50% fewer stocked
      • ~80% fewer wild fish
    • Good for long term.

10:00a – Break

10:15 – Food Web (UW-Milwaukee – Ben Turschak)

  • Hypothesized changes in the Lake Michigan food web.
    • The food web has changed to one that includes lots more algae on the lowest level to mussels (which are difficult to consume) on the next level, to round gobies (on the forage fish level).
  • Round goby eat mussels and therefor have become very abundant in the Lake.
  • At this point Lake Michigan is completely covered in mussels.
  • Mussels are filtering the water allowing for increased light exposure resulting in an increase in algae.
  • The large amount of round goby, mussels and algae are a potential new energy source. It is up to all of us to identify the best way to maximize this.

11:15a – Lake Michigan Prey Fish 2014 (GLFC…Data Collected from Acoustic and Bottom Trawls)

  • According to these surveys; Rainbow Smelt, Bloater and Alewife numbers have decreased in recent years.
  • Only 18-19% of Lake Michigan prey fish are native.
  • Gobies: The New Alewife?
    • Gobies consumed by almost every predator in Lake Michigan.
    • Estimating populations difficult, but assumed to be very high.

12:00 – Lunch (Provided)

1:00p – NOAA Marine

  • Wisconsin national sanctuary marine nomination (by Governor Walker) – The corridor is marked by 34 known shipwrecks, 122 reported vessel losses, numerous other historic maritime-related features, and communities that have embraced their centuries-long relationship with Lake Michigan. The historic shipwrecks are representative of the vessels that sailed and steamed this corridor, carrying grain and raw materials east as other vessels came west loaded with coal. Many of the shipwrecks retain an unusual degree of architectural integrity, with 14 vessels that are intact. Sheboygan, Manitowoc and Ozaukee counties are the coastal communities. The process can take years to complete.

1:30p – Fisheries Economics (UW-Madison – Dan Phaneuf)

  • 138,000 WI Great Lakes recreational anglers in 2011
  • 977,000 days spent angling in WI Great Lakes in 2011
  • $86.4 million on WI Great Lakes trip related spending in 2011
  • 235,000 WI Great Lakes anglers in 2006 (why down in 2011?)
  • What are the channels through with WI Great Lakes fisheries generate benefits?
  • How can we conceptualize and measure these benefits?
  • Direct and indirect spending (these too together are estimated to be nearly 7.2 billion dollars.
  • Market economy v non-market economy (what much does the individual benefit beyond dollars)

2:15p – Break

2:30p – Lake Michigan Integrated Fish Management Plan Update (DNR – Brad Eggold)

  • 2015-2024
  • Visions
    • A diverse, balance, healthy ecosystem
    • A diverse multi-species sport fishery
    • A stable commercial fishery
    • Science-based management
    • Effective communication

2:40p – Milwaukee Harbor Fishery – Yellow Perch (DNR)

  • Early 2000’s lots of talk about stocking perch in Lake Michigan.
  • Determined to be too risky a project.
  • Chicago Yellow Perch Summit Summary
  • Stocking as a recovery tool not practical.
  • At the present time, lower yellow perch populations are more a result of an altered ecosystem than angler pressure.

2:50p – Net Pen Update (DNR)

  • Kewaunee (1/2 of the fish will be kept in net pens) / Root River (1/3 of the fish will be kept in net pens). It will take 3- 5 years to see if there is a different impact between fish stocked in net pens compared to fish stocked in rivers (fish stocked in net pens will be marked differently than fish stocked in rivers). Fish stocked from net pens will be held in the river for a couple weeks (for homing purposes) before being released in the harbors compared to fish which are directly put into the river. The hope is this will reduce river mortality.
  • This is significant to GBTU because, if it produces positive results, this sort of adjustment could work on the Oconto River.

3:00p – Adjourn


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