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Indiana King Stocking


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Our Indiana GLSI board member attended the 2 Indiana DNR stocking meetings last weekend. The subject of the meetings was about increasing the number of king salmon stocked in Indiana, and how to allocate that stocking for the next 3-5 years. The last stocking meeting was held three years ago.

Indiana will increase their stocking quota from 225,000 Kings to the new announced number of 275,000. Most, if not all of this will come from the Mixsawba hatchery. These guys are rock stars for Indiana. Indiana doesn’t have any natural reproduction, and none of the stocking sites are premier stocking sites. But Mixsawba makes it work and it is appreciated by the fishing community. Last year, Michigan allocated $30 million dollars of the Federal money that all states are getting to invest and improve in their hatchery system. Indiana’s hatcheries could benefit from upgrades to the bio-filters and infrastructure. We would like to see this happen at Mixsawba. This comes down to priorities in allocating Federal money in Indianapolis and our fisheries do not appear to be a priority there.

Indiana has stocked their 3 primary ports, Michigan City, Portage and East Chicago. Even though Indiana is increasing king stocking, it was announced at the meeting they were considering ending stocking at East Chicago. The state will be surveying all anglers who bought a trout and salmon stamp for feedback on cutting the plant at East Chicago. The survey will ask if there should be no changes in stocking locations or if East Chicago’s stocking should be eliminated and the fish moved to Portage and Michigan City. The GLSI questions this survey and process. It would make sense to reduce ports and consolidate stocking if king stocking was being cut but with an increase, we feel it’s better to stock all 3 ports to provide more opportunity to anglers. The port at East Chicago had their first return of kings last fall which was comprised of 2-year-old kings. 2023 will be their first return of mature 3-year-old kings. We feel it is better to wait one more year to evaluate the return of 3-year-old fish and use that information in making stocking decisions. This port would suffer socially and economically. It should also be noted this would reduce the number of spots for Indiana shore fishermen.

In addition, local anglers at East Chicago have prepared and are ready to launch a net pen program for stocked kings. While there is some data from Wisconsin that net pens do not make a difference, Michigan has had tremendous results with returns from net pens. Common sense would indicate that if you net pen kings, acclimate them, feed them and let them grow in size before releasing them, more will survive. If you have ever seen smolts right after they are dumped from the stocking truck, they are dazed and disoriented and easy prey for seagull and cormorants.

The local East Chicago community is asking for the survey to be held off one year so proper evaluation and science can be applied before any decisions are made. It should be noted that the survey pits fishermen against each other and comes down to a vote on where to stock fish. We think it is better to make stocking decision based on science and data. If a port has bad returns, then reduce or eliminate stocking but if a port has good returns, then stocking should not be cut, and that information should be the basis for the decision.

Our local GLSI board member has advocated that Indiana create a citizen’s advisory board to help guide stocking decisions like the Michigan process. In Michigan, advisors are presented with the data on charter boat catch rates, coded wire tag returns, angler effort and creel reports to gauge stocking success to use the best science to advise the DNR on where to stock fish. An underlying principle is the get the best possible return to fishery for the cost of each fish stocked. IDNR leadership in Indianapolis has rejected this concept and is choosing to go with a survey. The downside is decisions will be made based on emotions or the number of anglers who respond and not based on data and science.

One last positive of stocking 3 ports instead of 2 is it provides some insurance should a plant fail at one site. There have been several chemical spills from the steel mills at Portage that have resulted in large fish kills. What if this happened when newly stocked king smolts were in the river?

We feel decisions based on science, and the best updated information, along with informed anglers working in a true partnership with the IDNR will lead to improved fishing for all Indiana anglers. We want anglers to think about this before returning their stocking survey. We would also request this question be added to it – Should Indiana allocate Federal funding to upgrade our hatchery systems? Anglers need to let the leadership in Indianapolis know that we need more investment in our fisheries. The GLSI is encouraging all Indiana anglers to vote for the status quo and continue stocking all 3 ports for at least one more year to evaluate the return of mature kings at East Chicago.
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