On Wednesday, approximately 40,000, 6-inch long coho salmon were released into the Sable River at Ludington State Park.
A partnership between the Ludington Charter Boat Association and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) during the past three years has produced decent returns in coho salmon, according to George Freeman of the association and Paul Stowe, a natural resources manager with the DNR.
The coho stocked on Wednesday were hatched from eggs and were grown at the Platte River Fish Hatchery for 18-months.
“During that period, we have to put a lot of growth on them to get them up to that 6-inch fish, and that is about when they will begin to smolt,” Stowe said.
Smolting is when the fish will have a transformation from a juvenile salmon to the adult-looking, silver-sided fish, according to Stowe.
“During that transformation is when the fish will begin to imprint the river and out-migrate,” he said.
Stowe said the coho will begin to loose their power marks — vertical bars along their sides that provide them with camouflage in the river — and begin to get their silver coloring with the white belly and dark back, which helps to hide them in the open water of lakes.
“Last year was the first year the DNR started seeing adult returns,” Stowe said Wednesday.
The DNR brought 20,000 coho to the net pens about two weeks ago to hold with the salmon currently on-site to help improve the survivability of the fish, according to Stowe.
On Wednesday, the other 20,000 coho salmon were brought from the Platte River Fish Hatchery and released into the Sable River.
“We want to do the release of all of these fish at the same time, because there is some safety in numbers,” Stowe said. “If they all out-migrate together, then it is highly likely we will get a better return. The volunteers with the charter boat association have been feeding the fish in the acclamation pens and taking care of them for the last two weeks. This partnership is really great. We have been stocking here now for three years now.”
Stowe said even though it is a short section of river, it is still providing a fishery out in Lake Michigan as well as a return fishery here Sable River for anglers who are interested in targeting coho when they visit Ludington State Park.
“We hope we will see similar results to what we saw from the first stocking, “Stowe said. “Hoping for results anywhere from 1 percent to as high as 5 to 6 percent as the goal. The efforts the charter boat association are putting in will hopefully enhance those numbers and bump them up maybe a percent. A percent of 40,000 is still hundreds of fish, and that goes a long ways in helping the fishery.”