Wed. Dec 11th the L. Huron Salmon and Trout subcommittee met. Extremely productive meeting and walked out feeling that Huron is constructively moving fwd to improving the fishery in the main basin of Huron with the main goal to increase angler participation–effort hours, angler success, opportunity, economic impact and development.
The meeting started out with myself asking if/how the Wisconsin announcement may effect Huron mgmt. and perspectives. This led to the discussion of the first agenda item Draft 1 of the L. Huron Salmon and Trout Mgmt. Plan which should have stopped at 11:30 but continued until 2:15pm. Basically the plan outlines when, what species, how to increase or decrease stocking numbers of salmonids using a level system. My concern was how can we justify any increases in stocking when not firm on bait numbers? So I asked if we are going to use PPRs like L. Mi. NO! The predator prey ratio only compares chinook to alewife numbers and doesn’t show the impact of increasing populations of other species impact on alewife. It was also said the PPRs were not meant to dictate policy, as happening on L. Mi.
Huron is going to use a SCAA Model , and a level system to justify increases or decreases in stocking. Statistical Catch at Age, looking at growth rates, health by monitoring fat content, species survivability and mortality rates, return to creel, stomach contents–monitoring prey species size, types, percentage as some examples. Changes in prey species availability will be able to be monitored and any increase or decrease in certain prey can justify different predator increases or decreases.
What about equivalency ratios? The Chinook equivalent value to other species. Yes we will, but it sounded like we will use it as a less restrictive measure than on l. Mi. Recognizing that Chinook are the economic driver of the Huron main lake basin and angling effort, efforts are being looked into how we get anglers back to Huron by improving angling access and opportunity. Atlantic Salmon increases are already in the system. Using the Level System 1-4, (currently at level 1) the feeling is we can move to into level 2 and increase production in some species. Level 2 in the draft shows that LT and Chinook can be increased, level 3 shows that Atlantic, Chinook and Trout can be increased. The GLSI has expressed concern with Intralake Mvmt, the mvmt of Chinook from Huron to L. Mi to live out their lives and negatively impact L. Mi. forage base. Since the early 2000s 95% of Chinook have been moving to Michigan, and recently this appears to be less. The GLSI has been asking for this figure and it was presented that 50% are moving over, roughly 325,000 less Chinook in L. Michigan of planted fish, this doesn’t even take into account natal production of Huron Chinook that are swimming over. Caution is still being recognized, if this mvmt increases back to Michigan a return to level 1 stocking may have to occur. To justify a Chinook increase and minimize intralake mvmt possibilities, as an experiment Chinook could be stocked in southern ports as an experiment to monitor survivability, return to creel angling access, economic impact.
Another discussion revolved around steelhead returns which have been poor in certain ports, also recognized in Michigan waters of L. Michigan tributaries. A study is being discussed to figure out why returns are low. Current theory is temps at stocking and how soon they vacate the tributaries and shoreline and avoid predation by trout, walleye and birds.
This covers only a portion of the discussion but am excited on the positive direction, goals and ways to achieve angling opportunity that is being developed for Huron anglers.