Atlantic salmon released into Thunder Bay River

News Photo by Tyler Winowiecki Crews from the Platte River State Fish Hatchery traveled to the Alpena DNR research station on Thursday where they unloaded over 28,000 Atlantic salmon into the Thunder Bay River. The new Atlantic salmon stocking efforts have been widely hailed a success, DNR Lake Huron Basin Coordinator Randy Claramunt said.

ALPENA — Well over 28,000 Atlantic salmon were released into the Thunder Bay River Thursday afternoon as part of the DNR’s new stocking efforts.

Randy Claramunt, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Lake Huron basin coordinator, said the new stocking techniques being used on Thunder Bay River are part of the larger Lake Huron strategy.

“With the Atlantic salmon, we are viewing this as a new experimental program,” he said. “We are stocking between 20,000 and 40,000 at four main ports on Lake Huron. The target is closer to 40,000 but since it is a new program we are not hitting our target just yet.”

The fish came from the Platte River State Fish Hatchery near Beulah. DNR hatchery biologist Paul Stowe said the hatchery is home to nearly 5 million different fish including Atlantic salmon, walleye, chinook salmon and others.

The 180,000 Atlantic salmon that are raised at the location come from Lake Superior State University before coming to the hatchery, Stowe said. After arriving at the hatchery they begin the incubation process and then transition the fish to looking for food on their own, he said.

“As they grow we feed them and as they occupy more space we split them into four, then six raceways,” Stowe said. “Last number of years we started with around a quarter million fish in two raceways.”

Stowe said the most important process — in terms of future management of the fish — involves the clipping the adipose fin and then being implanted with a coded wire tagging in the salmon’s snout.

“From that wire tagging we can track it back to our number to see where it was stocked and what year it was released,” he said. “We get data on the strength of the stocking and the survival rates. This helps for future management plans and how we best utilize these fish.”

Claramunt said the tracking of these fish could not be possible without the help of the anglers who catch the fish after reaching maturity.

“Anglers are really helping us with this program by providing the information we use,” he said. “The anglers, by providing this information, are not only helping us make changes but also support the program.”

Claramunt said people both inside and outside the DNR were excited about the initial results. This included many of the outside stakeholders the DNR partner with such as the Lake Huron Citizens Fishery Advisory Committee, Michigan Steelhead and the Michigan Charter Boat Association.

“Internally we are really excited about the Atlantic salmon program and the idea of seeing the fish return to the fishery,” Claramunt said. “But I would also say that if you would look at the stakeholders on Huron they have been excited too, and have participated in the design and the implementations.”

On Thursday crews from the Platte River State Fish Hatchery stocked over 28,000 salmon weighting just over 2,800 pounds, according to the DNR’s records.

The fish, which had an average length of 6.42 inches, were planted near the DNR research station in Alpena close to the mouth of Lake Huron.

An update on the results for this program will be given at the Oscoda Lake Huron fisheries workshop Wednesday at the American Legion Hall. The event runs from 6-9 p.m. and is open to the public.

Tyler Winowiecki can be reached via email at twinowiecki@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Tyler on Twitter tw_alpenanews.