LAKE MICHIGAN – For centuries Lake Michigan has been fished by thousands of people. From local Native American Tribes hundreds years ago to today’s charters, Lake Michigan’s fish draws people from around the country, but the future of fishing in the lake doesn’t look good.
Lake Michigan, as well as the other four Great Lakes, hold many different species of fish, from small bait fish to 45 pound salmon, the variety is vast. And within this last decade, the local species have been affected by newcomers such as zebra mussels and goby.
The problem with these animals is simply that they are invasive species, they don’t belong in Lake Michigan’s ecosystem. The result of these new species, especially goby, has been drastic on the natural habitat of the lake.
Perch, which are a native species of game fish in Lake Michigan, are struggling to compete with Zebra Mussels. The invasive species pose a problem in Lake Michigan because they are consuming food that is meant for other species of fish.
Each Zebra Mussel can filter up to 1 liter of water a day, and while they filter water they also consume plankton, which is one of the major food sources for Perch. The mass amount of Mussels are causing a shortage in food for the Perch, which, overall stunts their growth.
Not to long ago people could go out on their boats and catch hundreds of big perch, now, you’d be lucky to catch a perch above 10 inches. The Perch are not the only fish being affected by the invasive species, though, the King Salmon numbers are also dropping.
Recently, many hatcheries based on Lake Michigan have decided to reduce the stocking numbers of King Salmon and raise the amount of Coho Salmon that are stocked each year. Many companies are doing this in an effort to rid the lake of goby.
King Salmon can become massive, reaching nearly 55 pounds. Their main food sources are small bait fish such as Alewives. On the other hand, Coho not only eat Alwives, but have been seen consuming gobies as well.
Although King Salmon numbers will be lowered, it is worth it, as hopefully the change in stocking will help the lake become a better habitat for it’s natural fish.