LANSING - The muskie production program of the Department of Natural Resources has turned a significant corner by stocking only Great Lakes muskies.
DNR's Fish Production Section operates six large fish hatcheries, including the Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery in Mattawan which the muskie program belongs to.
Based on the department's figures, hatcheries produce 13 million trout and salmon and 30 million walleye, muskie and sturgeon annually. That's a total 600,000-700,000 pounds of fish a year stocked in the state's public waters.
This is an example of the type of muskellunge or muskie that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is now stocking in the Great Lakes. This particular example was caught on Lake St. Clair by an unidentified but very fortunate fisherman.. (DNR photo)
The department has raised muskellunge for stocking for decades but had always used northern muskies. This is the second year it produced strictly Great Lakes muskies.
Gary Whelan, the DNR fish production manager, said it is a turning point in the program
"This strain of muskellunge is native to most of Michigan. The northern muskellunge is native to only a small portion of the far western Upper Peninsula in the Wisconsin River drainage," he said.
According to Whelan, Michigan is home to two species, the Great Lakes muskie and the northern muskie. The Great Lakes muskie is well established in Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River system in Southeast Michigan.
"Our Lake St. Clair raises the best and most muskies in the nation," he said.
Matt Hughes, a fisheries biologist at Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery, said, "We want to rebuild our Great Lakes muskie numbers, so using this strain allows us to get them into more Michigan waters."
He said there are fewer restrictions on where the state stock the Great Lakes muskie than northern muskie.
Will Schultz, the president of Michigan Muskie Alliance, said "The muskies fishing community is supportive of the new change."
The alliance contributes both financially and with volunteer labor at the hatchery.
Whelan said that the program won't change the eco-balance.
"We have about a $1.5-$4 billion recreational fishery and $30 million commercial fishery each year. It costs us some money to raise the fish, but this is a kind of high-value fish, and hopefully these muskies can attract more anglers coming to our state," he said.