Fishing, Sport (Lake Michigan)

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Sport Fishing has been and continues to be a large part of Wisconsin's culture and economy. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Sport fishing started in the 1820s and has become a huge business not only in Wisconsin but all the Great Lake States. Sport fishing plays a major role in Lake Michigan's health. The Salmon and Trout play an important part in keeping other species in line and prevent overpopulation of smaller prey fish. Sport fishing is different that other types of fishing. Commercial fishing is when a fisherman sells fish to markets as a business. Sport fishing is fishing for fun.

Species of Fish

When Individuals go sport fishing they are looking for record size fish. These species of fish can get to about 50 pounds. Charter Companies pride themselves on giving fisherman trophy fish.

Record Holding Fish:

Chinook Salmon can grow up to 50 pounds. The state record for a Chinook or King salmon is 44 pounds 15 ounces.

Coho Salmon can be up to 35 pounds, the state record is 26 pounds 1.9 ounces.

Steelhead Salmon can grow to be 40 pounds. The state record for a Steelhead is 27 pounds 2 ounces.

Lake Trout Can be up to 50 pounds, the state record is 47 pounds.

Brown Trout can be up to 50 pounds. The state record for a Brown is 41 pounds 1 ounce.

Brook Trout average around 10 pounds, the state record is 10 pounds 1 ounce.

These species are the most commonly fished for in Lake Michigan. Most Commercial fishing Charters try to catch these fish. [1]

These Species of fish are similar looking but they do have some differences in appearance. Salmon are a silver or gray color with spots of color on the tops of the spine. They seem shiny or almost metallic looking. They are larger in size than trout. Trout are more brown and have yellow or darker brown spots, they sometimes have a pinkish coloring in the middle of their sides. They are darker colored to help live in streams. They blend into the river better. These fish are known to live in rivers and streams compared to a Lake.

Numbers of fish

The total number of fish in Lake Michigan can not be accurately defined. The Wisconsin Department of Natural resources log the amount of fish they stock into rivers and streams each year. This helps give an approximate number but is most likely not accurate. Approximately 65 million pounds of sport fish are taken from Lake Michigan every year according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These are larger size fish and doesn't count the numbers just the total weight. [2]

Kewaunee County example

Kewaunee County has stocked approximately 2,947,249 fish into Lake Michigan. In 1974 the first fish were stocked into the Ahnapee river. They stocked Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Chinook Salmon, and Coho Salmon. The average length of the fish were anywhere between 1 inch and 9 inches. They have continued to stock fish in Kewaunee county up until the present day. [3] In Kewaunee county in 2013, 33,909 King (Chinook) Salmon were harvested and 16,498 Rainbow trout were taken. These numbers come from a local charter company in Algoma, Wisconsin. [4]

Results of Sports fishing

There has been a decrease of salmon in the last few years due to environmental problems. The main food source of salmon and trout has been diminishing greatly. The Alewives are being killed by the Zebra and Quagga mussels. This is the greatest cause of salmon fluctuations. The Salmon numbers are down 75% from their peak in 2012. These Mussels are an invasive species. [5] Every year the Sport fishing industry put 1-4 billion dollars into the economy. This dramatically affects the cities that line the banks of Lake Michigan. [6] The fish the Department of Natural Resources stock is what will keep the populations from plummeting drastically. These fish will be the future of the economy in towns along Lake Michigan and will be the future of the sport all together. With so many fish being harvested and the apparent lack of consistent food, the populations will be affected. If sport fishing ends, so will the economy of many Great Lake cities.

Future of Sport Fishing

The future of Sport Fishing in Wisconsin depends on how well the fish respond to lower amounts of food and also the changing water temperatures and quality. If the fish cannot adapt to new changes in their ecosystem they will not be able to survive as a species. For example Coho Salmon seemed to only eat Alewives, if Coho's needed a new food source they would most likely have a kill off because they have had no reason to eat anything else other than Alewives. They would need to adapt quickly.

Prevention of Diseases: Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia or VHS affects 25 species in total including the sport fish in lake Michigan. Some signs of VHS are Hemorrhaging, bulging eyes, unusual behavior, anemia, bloated abdomens, rapid onset of death. This disease can cause large kill offs of fish. This disease is spread through urine and reproductive fluids. It can survive in the water for up to 14 days. Stress makes the fish more vulnerable to catching VHS. Stress can be caused by things like spawning, poor water quality, lack of food, and holding of the fish. This disease does not affect people who may have eaten a fish who has VHS.

Invasive Species also may play a role in the future of sport fishing. Carp, Asian Carp, Zebra, and Quagga Mussels are just a few of the invasive species that will affect sport fishing numbers in Lake Michigan. [7] The Mussels are preventing prey fish from spawning and that reduces the food sources for the Salmon and Trout. With the constant decline in food, the sport fish will start to starve and will start to die. The Carp eat the same prey fish and this also limits the food available to the sport fish. Invasive species will affect the future of sport fishing. They are taking resources away from the fish people want to catch


  1. "Fishing Lake Michigan," Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Accessed on December 8, 2015
  2. "About our Great Lakes Tour," National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Great Lakes Environmental Laboratory, Accessed on December 8, 2015
  3. "Fishing Lake Michigan," Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Accessed on December 8, 2015
  4. "Where we fish," Kinns Katch,, Accessed December 8, 2015
  5. "Salmon population plummeting in Lake Michigan," Detroit Free Press,, Accessed December 8,2015
  6. "About our Great Lakes Tour," National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Great Lakes Environmental Laboratory, Accessed on December 8, 2015
  7. "Fishing Lake Michigan," Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Accessed on December 8, 2015

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