HARVEY - Twelve and a half more tons of fish, give or take a few pounds, are swimming in the state's waters following the latest fish-stocking season.
The Fisheries Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources stocked eight species totaling more than 1,050,000 fish during the fall. Fish were planted at 111 locations in the state.
Fish stockings consisted of brook, lake and rainbow trout; steelhead; Atlantic salmon; walleye; muskellunge; and lake sturgeon.
Jim Aho, fisheries biologist at the Marquette State Fish Hatchery, examines splake eggs that are starting to hatch. The water is kept at 8 degrees Celsius (42 degrees Fahrenheit) for the fish. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)
Splake eggs are nurtured at the hatchery. Splake — a hybrid of lake and brook trout — typically weigh up to eight pounds when mature. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)
The Marquette State Fish Hatchery stocked 34,093 fall fingerling and adult brook trout and adult lake trout that weighed 2,225 pounds. The hatchery stocked a total of 47 sites in 18 trips.
The Marquette Fisheries Research Station, located in the same building as the hatchery on Cherry Creek Road, stocked 598 fall fingerling lake sturgeon weighing 22 pounds into four locations in the Upper Peninsula. Four trips were needed for this stocking effort.
All brook trout raised at the Marquette hatchery were stocked in Upper Peninsula lakes, said Jim Aho, DNR fisheries biologist based at the hatchery. These lakes included Clear Lake near the Peshekee Grade and South Kidney and Moccasin lakes, both near Gwinn.
"Brook trout do better in lakes that are all brook trout," Aho said. "They don't like competition."
Aho said the fish are too small in the spring to stock, and the weather is too warm for stocking in the summer.
"Fall is the good window to stock these smaller lakes," Aho said.
It's also less expensive to stock in the fall, with about $26,000 saved through stocking four months early, he explained.
"It doesn't require the labor to take care of them," Aho said.
Aho said not only do the fish not require feeding for four months, placing them in the wild frees up hatchery space for the yearlings.
The Marquette hatchery, he said, has three raceways for raising fish, with one specifically for fall fingerlings. After they are stocked, the remaining fish are divided into three raceways again - this time with more space, giving the fish more room to grow with less stress.
And fewer fish in a space mean bigger fish.
"We think that contributes to survivability and health," Aho said. "If you can stock fewer fish - and healthier - it'll increase the creel catch."
The lake trout that were raised, Aho said, were placed in the Kitch-iti-kipi, Michigan's largest freshwater spring located in Palms Book State Park near Manistique. He said the trout were tagged to keep track of vaccinations, so they were placed in a non-fishing facility.
According to the DNR fish-stocking database, sturgeon were stocked in the fall in the Whitefish River in Delta County, the Cedar River in Menominee County, the Ontonagon River in Ontonagon County and the Sturgeon River in Baraga County.
Aho said the method for raising lake sturgeon in those areas is to rear them on trailers on the sites using water from the rivers.
"They think they imprint that river water real early in their life span," he noted.
Aho said Marquette hatchery staff now is busy overseeing the hatching of splake (lake-brook trout hybrids), with efforts focused on lake trout probably starting next week. Brook trout eggs also are beginning to mature and "eye" up.
"Things are going well," Aho said. "We got very little disease."
By that, Aho meant the recent egg take from brook and lake trout at the hatchery showed no bacterial kidney disease.
DNR fish production manager Gary Whelan said it was another outstanding fall stocking season in Michigan.
"This is in addition to our successful spring stocking efforts that put more than 19 million fish into the state's waters," Whelan said in a written statement.
The public is invited to visit state fish hatcheries and interpretive centers to witness the fish-rearing process and learn about Michigan's waters and fish. For details, visit www.michigan.gov/hatcheries.
Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.