State fishery biologists have to answer a critical question about Lake Michigan this year. How many salmon can it support? Everyone involved in the salmon fishery is worried about its future and now some sport fishing groups say drastic action might be required. They want the state to stop putting more fish into the lake.
There's not much food for salmon in Lake Michigan these days because invasive species are changing the food web. But there are a lot of salmon, because more and more are being born in the wild as opposed to in fish hatcheries. That combination of too many fish and not enough food wiped out the salmon in Lake Huron almost a decade ago and they never returned.
So the state has proposed reducing the number of salmon stocked in Lake Michigan by 30-50 percent. But last month the Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen's Association urged lake managers to consider ending all stocking for two years. Now a charter boat association in Muskegon has endorsed that idea too. Paul Jensen is part of that group and a commercial fisherman too.
"We need to make a radical move to change the pattern," says Jensen. "What we don't want to do is duplicate what happened on Lake Huron.
But ending stocking might not sit well with some anglers. For decades more fish stocking meant more fish being caught and the fishing on Lake Michigan has been phenomenal in recent years.
But researchers say the situation is bleak. The salmon fishing is great so far this spring. But that's a problem because it means there's still a lot of fish in a lake without much food.