SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Anglers had a lot of questions Tuesday for Michigan Department of Natural Resources representatives about the reasoning behind proposed cuts of Chinook salmon stock in Lake Michigan in 2017.
The DNR is proposing cutting 50 percent of Chinook salmon stock lakewide. The agency says the cuts are a result of a shortage in Chinook salmon bait fish, called alewives. It says there’s an alewife shortage caused by too little food and too many predators.
“Without alewife, we don’t have salmon and that’s what you’re telling us your customers want, so we’re looking to preserve that long term,” said Jay Wesley the Lake Michigan Basin coordinator for the DNR.
The cut originally proposed was 62 percent, but the DNR changed that figure at the request of fishermen.
Speaking to a packed house at the Moose Lodge in South Haven, state officials outlined the process and data they are using to make the cuts.
But many fishermen are frustrated and concerned the cuts will dramatically impact the state’s multibillion-dollar fishing industry.
“This proposal, I’ll say — and I’ll be pretty blunt — to continue to significantly reduce the salmon stock is one that I cannot accept. And I am here to add my voice to all those who want a vibrant king salmon fishing experience in Lake Michigan,” said state Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell.
He and other anglers questioned the data the DNR is using to justify the proposed cuts.
“So many predator fish and so little prey fish — why are we getting such a large die off?” one fisherman wondered.
Fisherman like Captain Glen Buehner, who fears losing his business, don’t want any cuts.
“It’s a passion. It’s been generational now. They’ve been in the lake for 50 years. You’re talking generations. I’m looking at adding a fourth generation to my family fish and salmon. And that might not happen,” Buehner said.
The DNR will take all of the input and questions from Tuesday’s meeting into account and make a final decision by Sept. 30.