GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Reports of the invasive alewife fish washing up onto shores throughout West Michigan have continued despite attempts to control the population.
The invasive species to Lake Michigan have been reported along several beaches in northern and west-central Michigan. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said this is likely the biggest die-off since 2010 and is due to changing weather patterns.
With the rise in alewives, the DNR is concerned that the number of invasive species may continue to increase. There are currently 187 in Lake Michigan.
“We’ve had so many alewives around this year. The last three years I’ve been coming in here to the marina and when the water was high, they were washing up on the docks,” Don Alofs, owner of Tangled Mess Fishing Charters, said.
To help combat the problem, the DNR added nearly 800,000 chinook salmon, the main predator of alewives, to Lake Michigan in the spring of 2022. That number is nearly 200,000 more than what was added in Spring 2021.
“Our goal is to go up to a million next year in 2023,” Jay Wesley, Michigan DNR Lake Michigan basin coordinator, said.
Balancing out the alewife population is not the only benefit of adding salmon into Lake Michigan. The fishing industry across the five great lakes generates $7 billion in revenue each year. This season, however, has brought a slow start for some fishermen.
“It’s not been a good year so far,” Alofs said. “We had a good week and a half in May and since then, it’s been not so well.”
Alofs fishing boat is docked at the Yacht Basin Marina in Holland. He and his daughter are all too familiar with scooping alewives out of the water with nets.
In years past, Alofs was used to catching 10 to 15 salmon during an outing. These days, he catches about five. He hopes that the one million fish released next spring will help with business.
“We probably will never have a completely native community again, but we’ll try our best that’s good for the ecosystem, economy and society,” Wesley said.
Michigan DNR asks the public to report any die-offs to their nearest office.