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Outdoors: Chinook tagging produces interesting results

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Updated: March 10, 2013 6:38AM



Early indications are Chinook salmon cross state lines with impunity on Lake Michigan.

At least that seems evident less than two years into the federally funded Great Lakes Mass Marking Program.

Starting in 2011, every Chinook stocked in the Great Lakes for five years has a coded, stainless steel wire tag (CWT) identifying the stocking agency, date and location in its snout. Those fish can be recognized by their clipped missing adipose fin.

“Within two years, all the Chinook within Lake Michigan that are hatchery stocked will be marked,” Lake Michigan fisheries biologist Brian Breidert said. “They will start giving us solid information on natural reproduction.”

Most of us suspected the spring fishery in southern Lake Michigan included Chinook from all over. Even expecting that, a study of 105 angler-caught Chinook with CWT in April and May was surprising.

Only four percent of those fish were stocked by Indiana. Most fish were stocked by Wisconsin (53 percent) and Michigan (30), 12 percent were Illinois stockings. Another oddity was five tagged kings came from Lake Huron.

But the biggest oddity came in October when 61 tagged Chinooks were collected during sampling on Trail Creek. Most of us would have expected those fall-returning kings to be nearly all Indiana stocked fish.

The majority were stocked in Indiana, but 71 percent is far less than expected. There were 16 percent from Michigan, 8 percent by Illinois and 5 percent by Wisconsin.

“We targeted Trail Creek (in October) because it is the first year we have returning jacks coming back and it is easy with sea lamprey barrier,” Breidert said.

The study is still in the early stages. Breidert said they passed unmarked fish upstream. In coming years, those will be wild fish. Right now, they could be either wild or older kings.

Other oddities are coming from the study.

“Jacks are weird,” Breidert said.

The young salmon showed an amazing range in size from 16-26 inches in length and 1½ to 6½ pounds.

“It is has to do on what they are feeding,” Breidert said. “You can’t assume a fish greater than 2 or 3 pounds is an older aged fish.”

That gives new meaning to what we will be catching within a month or so.

“We are pretty excited about this,” Breidert said. “Hopefully, we will get approval on a steelhead marking program.”

That will depend on funding.

Showtime: Expect halls to be jammed as the area’s top outdoors show, the Tinley Park Fishing and Outdoor Show (tinleyparkfishingshow.com), celebrates its 20th year at Tinley Park High School on Saturday-Sunday in Tinley Park, Ill.

Fishing notes: The Valparaiso Ice Fishing Derby was postponed until Feb. 23, weather permitting. ... Some steelhead are in the streams. Breidert expects more to show after the forecast precipitation on Thursday. Capt. Rich Sleziak at Slez’s Bait in Lake Station said the ones being caught are “beautiful, big winter-run steelhead,” some topping 10 pounds. ... A few dared to ice fish at Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area earlier this week. By Thursday, ice deteriorated to 0-2 inches, according to site staff, and nobody was out. That’s the ice fishing story area-wide. ... The new fishing guide (a glossy this year) is out and soon to be at the local retailers.

Clubbing: It’s swap night and Dan Plath of the Northwest Indiana Paddlers Association speaks at the meeting of the Hoosier Coho Club (hoosiercohoclub.org) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Skwiat American Legion in Michigan City.



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