Strawberry Creek

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Located in Door County, Wisconsin, Strawberry Creek resides off of County U on Strawberry Lane. [1] Strawberry Creek is a fish hatchery collection that flows into the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal and then into Lake Michigan. The hatchery first stocked Lake Michigan with Chinook Salmon fingerlings nearly 40 years ago and continues on today. The Chinook is also known as the "king" salmon. [2] The hatchery is funded by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and is open to the public throughout the spawning season.

History

Strawberry Creek was created with the intent to increase the predator fish count throughout Lake Michigan. Alewife, which is a native species to Lake Michigan had taken over the waters, and in 1967, it was estimated that 85% of the fish population was made up of alewives.[3] Alewife were believed to have made their way up the St. Lawrence Seaway from the Atlantic Ocean.[4] It wasn't until 1969, that Strawberry Creek would first be able to make an impact. In the hatchery's first season it was able to release 65,000 fingerlings to help reduce the native alewife species. Following its rookie season, the hatchery has released 200,000 Chinook Salmon fingerlings annually and believes to have a firm grip on the Alewife species. The Strawberry Creek Hatchery is Wisconsin's primary source for Chinook Salmon eggs for Lake Michigan. [5]

Hatching Process

In late September each year, Chinook Salmon will swim fin to fin upstream in a collection pond with thousands of other salmon.[6] The salmon that were once released from this very collection pond return the next year for the collection of their eggs. The salmon eggs are collected on Monday and Thursday during the spawning period and are also then collected for data purposes. The WDNR uses a large net to raise the fish out of the collection pond. Once raised out of the pond they are anesthetized by carbon dioxide, which makes it easier for the staff to handle the fish when collecting data.[7] The fish are weighed, measured, sexed, and checked for fin clips by the WDNR [8] The WDNR collects anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000 eggs per female fish. The eggs are then mixed with male sperm which is called milt. The eggs and milt are given time to fertilize and then are shipped out to other various hatcheries.

Leftover Fish

As mentioned, nearly 200,000 eggs are fertilized and released into Lake Michigan to help fight the alewife population. Once the Chinook are spawned they naturally die. The fish that are leftover and dead are used for various different ways. Large Chinook Salmon above 36 inches are sent to a company called Dramm, Dramm uses the large fish to help them make liquid fertilizer. Smaller Chinook Salmon under 36 inches are used for two different ways, the smaller fish are sent to food pantries and surplus eggs are packaged and sent to bait companies for them to sell the leftover eggs. [9]

Recent Years

In recent years, the hatchery has faced some difficulties with low water levels. The low water levels have made it difficult for the Chinook Salmon to swim up the creek and into the holding pond. To help combat this situation, Strawberry Creek installed a diversion system that pumps water via a plastic pipe from the Sturgeon Bay ship canal a quarter mile away and dumps it into the creek just above the facility at a rate of 1,200 to 1,500 cubic feet per second. [10]. The added water is necessary for the salmon to make it upstream for us to collect their eggs and provide fingerlings for Lake Michigan, but also to provide enough fresh water to help the fish breathe. With so many fish being collected in one holding pond, it's a must that fresh water be filtered in and out so fish have enough oxygen to survive.

References

  1. "Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources." Controlling Invasive Species - Wisconsin DNR. October 7, 2016. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/hatcheries/strawberrycreek.html.
  2. Smith, Paul A. "Salmon Facility Key to Chinook Fishery." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. October 27, 2016. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.jsonline.com/story/sports/outdoors/2016/10/23/salmon-facility-key-chinook-fishery/92641942/.
  3. Legler, Nick. "Explore Like a Local: Strawberry Creek Chinook Facility." Sturgeon Bay Door County Visitor Center. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.sturgeonbay.net/news/explore-like-a-local/strawberry-creek-chinook-facility.
  4. Legler, Nick. "Explore Like a Local: Strawberry Creek Chinook Facility." Sturgeon Bay Door County Visitor Center. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.sturgeonbay.net/news/explore-like-a-local/strawberry-creek-chinook-facility.
  5. "Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources." Controlling Invasive Species - Wisconsin DNR. October 7, 2016. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/hatcheries/strawberrycreek.html.
  6. Legler, Nick. "Explore Like a Local: Strawberry Creek Chinook Facility." Sturgeon Bay Door County Visitor Center. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.sturgeonbay.net/news/explore-like-a-local/strawberry-creek-chinook-facility.
  7. Legler, Nick. "Explore Like a Local: Strawberry Creek Chinook Facility." Sturgeon Bay Door County Visitor Center. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.sturgeonbay.net/news/explore-like-a-local/strawberry-creek-chinook-facility.(improved paraphrase)
  8. Legler, Nick. "Explore Like a Local: Strawberry Creek Chinook Facility." Sturgeon Bay Door County Visitor Center. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.sturgeonbay.net/news/explore-like-a-local/strawberry-creek-chinook-facility.
  9. Nick Legler, "Explore Like a Local: Strawberry Creek Chinook Facility." Sturgeon Bay Door County Visitor Center. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.sturgeonbay.net/news/explore-like-a-local/strawberry-creek-chinook-facility.
  10. Site Staff, "Strawberry Creek: Wisconsin's Chinook Salmon Pipeline." Outdoor News. February 13, 2004. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.outdoornews.com/2004/02/13/strayberry-creek-wisconsins-chinook-salmon-pipeline/


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