Don't you just love it when you can see light at the end of
the tunnel and it isn't a train?
We hear so much about fish diseases and what is wrong the fisheries management
around the world it is a real delight to be able to see something which is really working!
It has taken time, co-operation, research, pure tenacity and hard work on the part of fish
managers - as well as the fishermen who supported the projects to restore the Great
Lakes to their greatness.
Pollution, infestation of non-native species (brought about by the opening of the St. Lawerence
Seaway) ranged from alewives, lamprey, goby, to zebra muscles brought in on the hulls
of sea-going cargo ships, all caused a myriad of problems. The Great Lakes have 60
non-native aquatic species.
Nature dealt with some of the problems its own marvelous way. The goby is a 6 - 8 inch
bottom feeding Eurasian fish which was first found in Lake Erie in 1994. Zebra muscles
are very small and clog up water lines, drains - everything. The neat part? The gobies
eat the zebra muscles, and every other predator fish eats the goby. So far so good.
The original salmon planted in Lake Michigan in the late 1950's grew to huge sizes on
alewives, small herring-like fish. Eventually the numbers of alewives were seriously reduced,
leading to skinny, not as hearty salmon. But the fish managers figured out that one too!
They reduced the number of salmon stocked; the fish size and health improved.
It's not just the salmon! Lake Erie has seen an overall improvement in water quality
and increase in fish numbers. Smallmouth fishing has improved, and major gains have
been made in yellow perch, whitefish, lake sturgeon, and shad. Perhaps the greatest
gain for fly fishers is the astounding growth of steelhead, now ranging from 3 to 10 pounds.
The bad news is the walleye have moved into deeper water, attributed to fact walleye
are now better fed naturally, which makes them harder to catch.
In Lake Superior, which is the deepest and coldest of the Great Lakes, there is also
a transformation taking place. The native lake trout (almost extinct) are recovering nicely,
but the stocked Chinook aren't doing as well. The decision has been made to let the
now existing natural reproduction of the Chinook, Coho, steelhead, and brown trout
take their course without overloading the system with stocked salmon. Some
local anglers are not thrilled with that decision, but depleting the available food for all
usually ends up with no fish instead of more. The managers view on this one is
longer term instead of instant fish.
The control of the sea lamprey has really helped Lake Huron, and the stocking of
Chinook will be cut back by 20% based on anticipated gains from the success
of the lamprey program.
In Lake Ontario, which has also reduced stocking in an effort to balance
food supplies with fish numbers, more Chinooks over 40 pounds were
caught in 1999 than ever before.
It is really a pleasure to tip the FAOL Hat to the states which have been
co-operating in the on-going battle to clean up the lakes and restore the fisheries.
And congratulations to those of you who live near enough to fish the waters and
estuaries of the Great Lakes. It has been the on-going support of you and your
fellow fishermen who have kept these programs going!
Perhaps some of our fish deprived states could learn a thing or two from
them. ~ LadyFisher
If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to
post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!