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Tuesday, January 26 • 3:40pm - 4:00pm
History of Rearing and Stocking Atlantic Salmon In The Upper Great Lakes, With An Emphasis on The St. Marys River

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AUTHORS: Roger Greil*, Lake Superior State University; Ashley Moerke Lake Superior State University; Kevin Kapuscinski, Lake Superior State University; David Borgeson, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

ABSTRACT: State agencies in the upper Great Lakes attempted to create fisheries for Atlantic salmon by stocking hatchery-reared fish from 1972 to 1993. Efforts were abandoned early due to difficulties associated with rearing, high production costs, and poor returns to angler creels. However, the Aquatic Research Laboratory (ARL) at Lake Superior State University began rearing Atlantic salmon in 1985 and continues today, likely as a result of advantages related to its mission and facility design. The primary mission of the ARL is to train students, so reduced expectations for production numbers and returns to creel provided a longer timeline to achieve success. In addition, the ARL uses St. Marys River water in a flow-through system, which exposes fish to natural conditions during rearing. Since 1987, the ARL stocked over 871,000 age-1 Atlantic salmon that averaged 176 mm in length into the St. Marys River. Atlantic salmon stocked by the ARL have been caught in each of the Great Lakes, but most captures occur in the St. Marys River and Lake Huron. The average return to creel was 5.5% after the collapse of alewife in Lake Huron (2005-2010), which was at least 10 times higher than return rates for other stocked salmonids. Natural reproduction by Atlantic salmon was first documented in the St. Marys River in 2012, but has not been quantified and is unlikely sufficient to sustain a fishery. In consultation with the public, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) initiated an Atlantic salmon stocking program to see if these high return rates could be duplicated at sites outside of the St. Marys River. Beginning in 2012, the MDNR began acquiring eyed eggs from the ARL, rearing fish in state-run hatcheries, and stocking Torch Lake and four sites in the Lake Huron basin.

Tuesday January 26, 2016 3:40pm - 4:00pm EST