Courtesy: Michigan DNR
LANSING — The Department of Natural Resources recently finished stocking 36,228 muskellunge fingerlings into 21 water bodies located throughout the state in an effort to enhance Michigan’s fisheries.
Michigan is home to two strains of naturally producing muskellunge, Great Lakes and northern. The DNR has been rearing muskellunge in its hatcheries since the 1950s. While the hatchery program initially focused on the northern muskellunge strain, it has shifted focus in recent years to the Great Lakes strain as it is native to Michigan and widely distributed in water bodies throughout the Lower Peninsula and eastern region of the Upper Peninsula.
Since 2011 the DNR has collected adult muskellunge in the Lake St. Clair/Detroit River system for eggs and milt (sperm) and then rears the young at Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery in Mattawan. This hatchery is the only facility in the state currently capable of rearing this species. The muskellunge are reared in hatchery tanks and then transferred to outside ponds after a few months.
Historically, muskellunge were reared by stocking fry in ponds and allowing them to grow by eating natural food, similar to how the DNR currently rears walleye. Because of the highly cannibalistic nature of muskellunge, the success of these rearing efforts was varied and often produced low numbers. Current rearing efforts at Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery produce a much higher survival rate and more stable, predictable production.
“We’re making great headway in our efforts to increase muskellunge fishing opportunities for anglers,” said DNR fisheries biologist Matt Hughes, who oversees the rearing program at Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery. “With time and experience we’ve stabilized and increased production so more and more water bodies can be stocked.”
Below is a chart of the water bodies stocked this fall with 8- to 9-inch-long muskellunge. A historic milestone was passed this year as Great Lakes muskellunge were stocked in Little Bay de Noc of Lake Michigan. This is the first effort to restore this strain to its native waters.
|Water Body||County||Number Stocked|
|Big Island Lake||Schoolcraft||195|
|Cooke Dam Pond||Iosco||2,913|
|Grand River (Bruce’s Bayou)||Ottawa||750|
|Grand River (Indian Channel)||Ottawa||750|
|Little Bay de Noc||Delta||5,000|
|Muskegon River (Leota Bridge)||Clare||620|
|Muskegon River (M-55 Bridge)||Missaukee||620|
|Ninth Street Impoundment (Lake Besser)||Alpena||588|
|North Manistique (Round Lake)||Luce||2,002|
Due to extremely high survival during early rearing stages, an additional 6,300 fish averaging 3 inches in length were stocked in the Grand River (Lloyd Bayou and 120th Street). These fish were surplus due to limited rearing capacity and stocked in late August. An additional 1,510 northern strain muskellunge were stocked in Chicagon Lake (Iron County – 1,210 fish) and Craig Lake (Baraga County – 300 fish). These fish came from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as part of a cooperative agreement to trade Great Lakes strain muskellunge for northern strain muskellunge.
For even more information on the DNR’s fish-stocking efforts, check out the Fish Stocking Database at www.michigandnr.com/fishstock.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.