Hatchery trout head south

CHOCOLAY TOWNSHIP — Young lake trout from the Upper Peninsula got to take a long trip Wednesday to help restock the waters along southern Lake Michigan.

The crew at the DNR’s Marquette State Fish Hatchery spent part of the morning loading over 49,000 of the fish into a specialized truck for shipment to downstate Grand Haven, New Buffalo harbor, and Lake Macatawa. After a nine–hour ride, the fish are introduced to their new homes and diets.

“They’ll get there, and they’ll be released into the river mouth and slide into Lake Michigan, where they’ll find small sand minnows and food to eat and be instantly from a commercial diet to a minnow diet then, and hopefully in about six years they’ll return to fishermen,” said Jim Aho, biologist at the Marquette City Fish Hatchery.

The restocking of fish is made possible by targeted funds provided by federal excise tax and license sales. The Marquette facility is unique among fish hatcheries in Michigan in the varieties it raises.

“We’re the only state facility that has lake trout,” Aho added. “We have the right temperatures and the right raceway configurations to raise lake trout. The other hatcheries are set up for steelhead, Chinook salmon, and rainbows, brown trout. We got these eggs from the federal government as eyed eggs in December, and they’ve been in the Marquette hatchery now for the last 14 months. We reared them, and now they’re ready to go out.”

This was one of the first fish plants of the season. Crews will continue to deliver their various species of fish through May, working their way back up to northern waters as the ice continues to melt. The Marquette Hatchery expects to stock around 635,000 fish this year.