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April 17, 2012

MILWAUKEE -- Public meetings are set for May 1 in Milwaukee and May 8 in Green Bay for anglers and others who want to learn more about, and weigh in on, potential stocking reductions in Lake Michigan that scientists say are necessary to balance game fish with the available food source.

The meetings are set for 6:30 p.m. May 1 at the WATER Institute in Milwaukee and 6:30 p.m. on May 8 at the Brown County Library in Green Bay. The Wisconsin meetings follow a lake-wide conference in Benton Harbor, Mich., on April 14, on the same topic that drew 60 people in person and another 25 who participated online.

"We want to go over the information covered at the lakewide meeting in Michigan and give more Wisconsin anglers a chance to weigh in on future stocking policies," says Bill Horns, the Department of Natural Resources Great Lakes fisheries specialist.

Despite an exceptional coho harvest and good size-at-age among chinook salmon in 2011, lake-wide forage assessments and computer modeling conducted by Michigan State University researchers suggest that the number of trout and salmon being stocked in Lake Michigan exceeds what can be supported by the available prey fish in the future, Horns says.

"The modeling suggests that we risk a future collapse in both alewives and game fish if stocking levels stay the same," he says. "Concern about the stability of the Lake Michigan alewife population has increased in recent years as we have watched the dramatic declines in Chinook salmon harvest in Lake Huron after alewife populations there crashed."

Biologists in the four states bordering Lake Michigan are reviewing the models and consulting with interested anglers regarding future stocking policies. The Wisconsin meetings, as did the Benton Harbor meeting, will examine five options pulled together in workshops over the last year by the states' fisheries biologists and representatives of fishing and other interested groups.

The options include sticking with current stocking levels and four alternative patterns of reduction in stocking of chinook salmon, coho salmon, steelhead, brown trout, and lake trout. According to the models, the probability of reducing alewife abundance to an unacceptable level can be reduced seven-fold, from 23 to 3 percent by implementing one of the stocking options.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bill Horns (608) 266-8782

Last Revised: Tuesday, April 17, 2012

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