Thursday, December 11, 2014

Salmon in the Great Lakes

A family member sent me this link to a three-part series in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the  history of the salmon fishery in the Great Lakes:

It is truly an amazing story about the decline of native fish populations (mostly the lake trout) because of invasive species -- the sea lamprey and alewife -- but also about an incredible salmon stocking program that led to decades of excellent sport fishing on the upper Great Lakes.  And not least of all, it is also a story of how that artificial fishery also finally collapsed (or is in a state of collapsing) and is being replaced older native population of fish.

The story is very well done; I commend Dan Egan the author.  Really a fine job.

This is all very personal and close to home for me.  My father, Martin J. Hansen, worked as a fisheries biologist in Marquette, MI, working on eradication of the sea lamprey.  I have some of the articles he wrote, such as  "Cadmium Sulfide and Mercuric Sulfide for Marking Sea Lamprey Larvae" (April 15, 1963, joint with Thomas M. Stauffer).  I also remember fishing in the spring of 1967 in Lake Superior, trolling with my dad in our little boat off the mouths of Sand River, the Laughing Whitefish River, and Carp River.  We were catching these silvery fish about 20 or 22 inches long, a few pounds each.  Normally we would be catching steelhead -- rainbow trout -- but these weren't rainbows.  My dad had left biology at that time, so maybe he wasn't up on the salmon stocking program.  We took a couple of the fish into the bar where we always stopped after fishing and some folks inside verified that the fish were coho salmon.  They had probably been planted just one year ago and we were catching the first ones.

I will be back in the UP over Christmas, maybe I will get a chance to do some ice fishing for walleye on Little Bay de Noc in Lake Michigan.