Tagged fish provide DNR with critical information

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources again this year is encouraging Great Lakes anglers who catch marked and tagged fish to report them. The DNR has used the coded-wire tag program to mass mark various fish species in Michigan since the 1980s. Mass marking provides critical data as fisheries biologists look to determine the value of naturally reproduced fish versus stocked fish, and lakewide movement of fish.

The coded-wire tag program involves implanting a small, coded-wire tag, which is invisible to the naked eye, into the snout of a fish. A fish containing a coded-wire tag can be identified because its adipose fin (the small, fleshy fin between the dorsal and tail fins) has been removed. An angler who catch a tagged fish then can record needed information about the fish, remove and freeze the fish’s snout, and drop it off at a designated location. A statewide list of dropoff locations can be found on the DNR website.

For years the DNR primarily tagged Chinook salmon and lake trout as part of its mass marking effort in Lake Huron. Tagging these fish has helped biologists understand more about lakewide natural reproduction and how many wild fish are available in the Great Lakes. It also has helped determine if the percentage of wild fish varies from year to year and how fish stocking locations contribute to lake and river fisheries. Additionally, it provides insight into fish movement and where fish are stocked compared to where they are caught.

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DNR hatchery sets gold standard for water quality management

After Michigan’s salmon program kicked off in the 1960s, Platte River State Fish Hatchery in Beulah was quickly labeled as the primary Pacific salmon hatchery for the state. With the wild success of the salmon fishery in the Great Lakes, production ramped up swiftly with more than 5 million Chinook salmon and about 3 million Coho salmon getting pushed out the door each year in the 1970s. But just like any other large-scale production effort – there were drawbacks to this growth.

To put it bluntly, all those fish created a lot of waste. Poop to be precise. When production really took off, not a lot of attention was given to what was happening to that waste after it left the facility. Unfortunately it had to go somewhere – which included Platte Lake, downstream from the hatchery.

Understandably so, residents of Platte Lake were concerned. They organized as a collective unit (the Platte Lake Improvement Association) and eventually filed suit against the Department of Natural Resources in circuit court in 1986 claiming the actions at Platte River State Fish Hatchery were impairing the resource.

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