This time of year, you’ll find Michigan Department of Natural Resources fish stocking trucks releasing their prized recreational cargo at hundreds of lakes and streams throughout the state.
Fish stocking is a valuable tool used by fisheries managers for different reasons, including:
- Restoring ecosystem balance.
- Providing diverse fishing opportunities.
- Rehabilitating low fish populations.
- Reintroducing extirpated (locally extinct) species.
The DNR does not stock on top of wild populations when it can be avoided. Fish production staff take great pride in the quality of the fish they produce, but – when feasible – prefer relying on naturally reproducing fish that are adapted to their local ecosystem.
However, there are instances where the combination of angling pressure and habitat limitations keep wild fish from maintaining the desired population level on their own. In those instances, hatchery fish are stocked to supplement natural reproduction.
The DNR accomplishes this work by rearing fish at its six fish production facilities throughout the state; cooperatively managing up to 29 rearing ponds and six Great Lakes imprinting net pen/pond locations (which help developing fish return to spawning waters when mature); and by maintaining a fleet of 18 specialized fish stocking vehicles.
The DNR stocks more than 20 million fish – that’s more than 350 tons of fish annually. Species stocked include steelhead; Atlantic salmon, chinook salmon and coho salmon; splake, brown trout, brook trout, lake trout and rainbow trout; as well as lake sturgeon, muskellunge and walleye. Beginning in mid-March and ending in early June, DNR fish stocking trucks travel well over 100,000 miles to stock more than 1,000 locations.
There are many factors that go into determining where and why fish are stocked in a particular lake or stream – in fact, it’s one of the most frequently asked questions the department receives. Some of these factors include current habitat, available forage and predators and/or competitors in the waterbody.
Visit the DNR’s fish stocking website at MichiganDNR.com/FishStocking for information on local fish stocking locations.