The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources released a new Lake Michigan fish stocking plan on Thursday, drawing praise from area anglers and business organizations.

Tom Kleiman of Kewaunee, president of the Wisconsin Lakeshore Business Association, called it a “well-thought-out strategy … Good short-term and long-term vision for Lake Michigan, the anglers that enjoy this tremendous resource and Wisconsin Communities.”

The announcement from the DNR said the goal of the plan is to enhance fishing success and opportunities for all Lake Michigan anglers, while sustaining a balanced and vibrant fisheries community.

“I commend Secretary-designee (Preston) Cole for his leadership and standing up for Wisconsin sportsmen and our impact on the Wisconsin economy,” Kleiman said. “Our priority throughout this process is to promote the entire Lake Michigan fishery, including the tributaries, near-shore and open water fishing. This plan addresses short-term needs with a comprehensive plan for future growth to enhance fishing opportunities in this great resource.”

Throughout 2019, DNR fisheries staff conducted an open and inclusive process to gather input on management options for the Lake Michigan fishery.

“Because of work with key partners in the Lake Michigan fisheries community, Wisconsin will grow as the preeminent destination for world-class fishing. This collaborative approach and innovative management strategies will expand our diverse and exciting fishery,” said DNR Fisheries, Wildlife, and Parks Director Scott Loomans. “I’m looking forward to big things.”

Lake Michigan is home to a world-class fishery, and there are anglers, businesses, stakeholder groups and communities that have a deep commitment to developing management strategies that will benefit this fishery for current and future generations, according to Todd Kalish, deputy director of DNR fisheries management.

“Stakeholder input has historically and continues to be a driving force in the development of Lake Michigan management strategies,” Kalish said. “A common theme of stakeholder input was a strong interest in developing innovative management strategies and collaboration that acknowledge economic, social and biological factors.”

For 2020, 2021 and 2022, chinook salmon stocking numbers will increase to 1,200,000 fish annually, coho stocking will increase to 500,000 annually, steelhead stocking will increase to 460,000 fish annually and brown trout, a popular fish, caught off piers and in harbors, will increase to 450,000 fish annually.

“In meetings and in comments we received about this plan, there was strong interest in increases in stocking not just for chinook salmon but for coho salmon, steelhead and brown trout,” said Brad Eggold, Great Lakes District fisheries supervisor. “This plan accomplished that goal and contained increases for every type of fishermen.”

Fisheries managers will assess potential changes to stocking numbers for 2023 and beyond based on traditional and new data and metrics collected and evaluated in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

The DNR will also begin the development of a Lake Michigan brook trout stocking initiative in 2020. Brook trout are a revered native species that could produce critical near-shore angling opportunities.

“We are excited to work with stakeholders to pursue reestablishing this native species to enhance angler opportunities and experiences,” Kalish said.

In addition to the 2020-2022 stocking plan, department staff, in collaboration with charter, commercial and sport fishers, plan to:

  • expand salmon and trout net pen projects to maximize the survivability of stocked fish;
  • develop and implement innovative public/private data collection initiatives to better inform future management strategies;
  • enhance outreach and communication by more actively engaging stakeholders in communication initiatives;
  • increase and enhance diverse marketing and outreach strategies; and
  • pursue salmon and trout habitat enhancement projects.

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