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3 yr old Salmon?


Corey K

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Couple questions, how many King's caught last summer that were 14-18lbs were 3yr olds? Talking to a creel guy at South Haven pointed out some misconceptions to me on aging Kings, biggest fish we had last year was close to 19lbs and this year biggest is close to 30lbs. I know the fish will put a lot of weight on but honestly these 30lb Kings had to be in the high teens last summer?

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The big boys you see this year are because they (the 4 years olds) didn't run last year and now they are 5 year olds...pretty uncommon.

The summer was sooooo warm last year that the run just didn't happen like it normally does.

So the 19lber that you caught last year is the 25-30lber this year.

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The big boys you see this year are because they (the 4 years olds) didn't run last year and now they are 5 year olds...pretty uncommon.

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A few friends and I have been tossing around that same idea. Can't confirm nor deny if that's actually factual. But IMO it makes sense that some of these tanks could easily be 5YO fish

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Definitely seems to make more sense than 3 yr olds packing on that many pounds in less than year. Especially if you believe that the DNR is right on the prey availability, size, and age structure.

Agreed that it is difficult to age a fish, but when you catch a 9-12 lb silver hen Chinook (that has the start of next year's egg sacks/skein in her) in Sept or Oct, I am pretty sure that is not a two year old or yearling. Possible its 4 year old if Mark's theory is right.

Question though: If that happens from time to time, how did the fish in the 70's and 80's get so darn big every year. Are the stories I hear that embellished? Was there that much more and larger bait? Or were those fish also not spawning consistently at 4 years old, but at 5 and combined with better predator prey ratios, just that much bigger on average?

I know you guys don't have all the answers, but it pretty interesting stuff. Would love to hear the DNR's feedback on that.

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Just reading through the stocking plan again as I remembered something about age and weight; so the DNR says they want 3 year old fish to be 15.4-19.8 or above to avoid further stocking reductions right? How do they age a fish....any info? So then, is a 2 year old fish gonna be 8-12 and 5 year old (if they fail to spawn at 4) 40 lbs? Pretty darn confusing.

Guess I'll just show up and fish next year.

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And a pile of one year olds that run too. We had a six pound one year old hen once. Imagine if she had a couple more years of good bait to feed on.

Last stats I saw on the grand river were low single digits on four year old and one year old spawners, and the balance split evenly on twos and threes.

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4 yr old fish are rare. I have only caught a few in my lifetime most of them back in the 70's when by the way we were getting 3 year old fish over 30 lbs. Biggest difference bait fish There was a time when most of the beaches had loaders and bulldozers with rakes to clear the dead alewives off them. I can remember many days when swimming in Lake Michigan meant wading thru dieing alewives. The salmon were brought here to clean up the Alewives since they had been tried in the late 1800's with no success the invasive onslaught however brought something they would eat. What has never happened well was reproduction on our rivers until the last decade when there had been enough of them to adapt somewhat to the warmer water and shorter lifespan. This coupled with less and less forage base made them a smaller fish that spawned sooner.

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All the great lakes have the same strain of Chinook Salmon, the Tule Strain from the Columbia River basin, so this data should be relevant even though I fish Lake Ontario instead of Michigan.

Every year our DEC Fisheries Bureau publishes a Lake Ontario Annual Report detailing all of the fisheries data they collected the previous year, both in the open water creel census and from the returns to the Salmon River Hatchery. Every year it is the same, the bulk of the run is 3 year olds, with a decent percentage of mature 2 year olds, and a small percentage of jacks (mature 1 YO males). They have traditionally use the number/percentage of jacks returning as a basis for determining the strength of a particular year class. For as long as I can remember, 4 years olds make up a fairly insignificant percentage of the population, from as high as 9 or 10% of the run on the high end in the early 90's to numbers too small to be statistically significant.

It is interesting that in 2011 and 2012, for some reason the bulk of the returns have been 2 year old fish instead of the normal 3 year olds making the bulk of the run.

Here is the relevant page from the 2012 Annual Report showing the age structure data from 1989 through 2012:

PagefromAnnualReport_zps1b2c509b.jpg

Tim

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Good info. Any one else notice the runs are earlier and earlier? A couple years ago we caught a nice cooler of matures in the channel on August 26. When I was a wee lad we fished kings in the harbor in late September and it was snowing when the coho ran.

cohos already ran thru grand rapids. One of the earliest years for them. Usually october. Perhaps they are adjusting to the conditions that are changing every year.

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Good info. Any one else notice the runs are earlier and earlier? A couple years ago we caught a nice cooler of matures in the channel on August 26. When I was a wee lad we fished kings in the harbor in late September and it was snowing when the coho ran.

Couldn't agree more, In the 1960's 70's and 80's the majority of the fish ran in late September and into October. I remember seeing spawning fish on the PM tributaries when we were grouse hunting. Not sure why the runs are earlier, but spoke to my brother in Oregon, he fishes the Columbia Bar regularly and their fish have been staging since August. They have consistently been taking fish over 35# all season. Reasons are simple, they have abundant forage. However the limit on Salmon there is 1 Chinook and 2 Silver's(coho) they have a tag system and are only allowed single barbless hooks. They troll out in the open ocean and this summer has been pretty good. 1 other thing they have is a huge commercial fishery. Gill nets that are run from shore out into the river. Btw in Oregon and Washington it is 1 rod per angler and no extra lures on the line.

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I read that the earlier runs are due to simple "accidental" genetic selection by the DNR broodstock collection efforts- they have/had a tendency to set up the weirs & collection stations early in the run, catch the early fish, meet their quotas, then take those fish back as broodstock. Seems plausible enough but I don't know how much truth there is/was on the timing of the DNR collecting their broodstock.

I would think you should be able to age salmon like other fish- taking a razor blade to slice a thin cross section of a dorsal or anal fin ray, then use a microscope and count the growth rings just like tree rings. This of course requires a microscope or having a total geek brother(s) who own one.

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I read that the earlier runs are due to simple "accidental" genetic selection by the DNR broodstock collection efforts- they have/had a tendency to set up the weirs & collection stations early in the run, catch the early fish, meet their quotas, then take those fish back as broodstock. Seems plausible enough but I don't know how much truth there is/was on the timing of the DNR collecting their broodstock.

I would think you should be able to age salmon like other fish- taking a razor blade to slice a thin cross section of a dorsal or anal fin ray, then use a microscope and count the growth rings just like tree rings. This of course requires a microscope or having a total geek brother(s) who own one.

Welcome Duke, and I've heard and have some of the same speculations. Our fishery isn't exactly natural selection where the fish gene pool is shaped by the survival factors that the strong/best reproduce. Well, except for those that do spawn in the rivers. Ours is more of a fish farm with a plant and harvest mentality. I've even heard it suggested that perhaps other factors at the weirs might influence fish size, like maybe they could sort by size when fish/egg gathering? Dunno... I'm sure the actual survival rates of fry are influenced more by outside factors like weather, water temp., rainfall, food sources and adaptability etc. though.

Nature knows best and us humans can't grasp or control it all. Although they even tried a little genetic engineering with the triploid plants quite a few years ago and never got a return on those either.

Seems a lot of experimenting has gone on with other species like steelhead varieties and different strains of those, Skamania being a prime example. And the Seefoorlen (sp?) Browns that were the rage for a while. Atlantic's and Pink's are a whole 'nother story. Don't know.... I'm obviously not a biologist and the DNR seems to be satisfied with the existing strain (Tule) of Chinook and it does seem to be working and doesn't seem to be the problem that the food base and exotics are to the whole equation. Good thought provoking discussion.

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I was at the Platte hatchery last fall and they were only taking the mature coho. The two year old jacks (one summer in the lake, coho get planted at eighteen months) were dispatched and tossed in a bin. Not sure they follow the same policy with kings.

I think we're missing out as in the fish that make it to the weirs are the ones that did not hit lures. Are they making salmon less likely to bite by breeding these fish?

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I think we're missing out as in the fish that make it to the weirs are the ones that did not hit lures. Are they making salmon less likely to bite by breeding these fish?

This literally has got to be the only reason why less fish are caught on the old standby methods close to the boat, and more are caught using new methods to get lures away from the boat. Could also be because the water is clearer now too though, maybe?

I must say this is just what I have heard and believe to be true about the history of fishing tactics - I am a totally clueless rookie. So I'd love to hear more experience from the veterans. Although getting off Corey's original topic - needs a separate discussion? Fascinating stuff!

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I was at the Platte hatchery last fall and they were only taking the mature coho. The two year old jacks (one summer in the lake, coho get planted at eighteen months) were dispatched and tossed in a bin. Not sure they follow the same policy with kings.

I think we're missing out as in the fish that make it to the weirs are the ones that did not hit lures. Are they making salmon less likely to bite by breeding these fish?

These fish don't grow from 3" to 20+ lbs in 3 years by being selective/picky eaters. The reason they strike any lure is because it kinda looks like food to their pea sized brain.

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Once a year I take grandpa's tackle box out and run the gear from the 70's. Still works.

My comment was tongue in cheek. Tim nailed it, kings just eat. I laughed when I heard a biologist say they had a really good year class of four year old walleye that were now legal as they were 15-17". That is why walleye fishing sucks.

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Here is the big question??? Are the 20#+ we are catching this year 3 or 4 year olds. Nobody knows yet. The DNR are waiting on results. Kings should run in 4 years. Ours don't. Only about 5% that show up anymore are 4 year olds. In the 70's they were coming back as 4 year olds. When I asked the Basin biologist last year why they were running at 2 and 3 year olds I was told the main #1 reason they run early is stress. #1 reason for stress, lack of food and lack of nourishing food. Obviously food is not a problem because you don't get 30# without it. So here is the question they don't have an answer for. Are we catching 20#+ 3 year olds that are still running at 3 years that have been eating very well, OR, did a lot of 3 year olds stay out an extra year to become 4 year olds because they weren't stressed. Remember, a 4 year old can get 40#+ in Lake MI with enough food, and 60#+ in the ocean. You have to eat well all 3 or 4 years to get to 20#+ sizes, so if they have been eating well(YES) than why are they claiming with have a problem with no Alewives. Ask any good fisherman with good electronis on this side of the lake what they saw for bait this year, PLENTY. I would say the fish are making LIARS out of some of the DNR, or maybe they found something else to eat, like sea fleas, that don't show up in their stomachs.

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