33 million fish stocked this year – in Michigan

13,000 rainbow trout plant, Carp River, Mackinaw Co.Michigan stocked 33,308,068 fish this year, while Maine stocked 1,211,141 fish. Interestingly, Maine’s fish weighed a total of 193 tons, while Michigan’s weighed 343 tons. Clearly, although Maine stocks a lot less fish, ours are a lot larger.

Over the years, we’ve debated more vs bigger fish. In 1935, under the leadership of Fish and Game Commissioner George Stobie, two new hatcheries were constructed. The hatchery in Gray produced 12 million legal-sized brook trout, while the world’s largest landlocked salmon hatchery at Moosehead Lake produced 2 million salmon.

Maine may produce even less fish next year, if the currently-closed Casco Hatchery is not reopened. That hatchery closed earlier this year when their water source vanished. They are still searching to find the problem and fix it. Fixing it will require a lot of money, and they’re probably searching for that too.

In 2002, a state Hatchery Commission, after meeting 15 times and spending $500,000 on engineering studies and plans, recommended that Maine quadruple the pounds of fish grown in our hatcheries and stocked throughout the state. In November of that year, Maine voters approved a $7 million bond issue for renovations and enhanced wastewater treatment, modernizing the existing 8 hatcheries and increasing the numbers and pounds of fish produced. A lot of that money went to completely rebuilding the Emden hatchery.

In 2004, DIF&W issued a report stating that as a result of the renovations, “Estimates are that production will increase from 250,000 pounds of fish annually to 500,000 pounds of fish annually.” That never happened. Today we’re still 114 tons short of that goal.

The 2002 Hatchery Commission actually recommended increasing production to 865,000 pounds per year, within the following ten years, “in order to expeditiously increase license sales and boost Maine’s sagging economy.” That’s only a dream today.

Lucky for us, many anglers, including nonresidents who come here to fish, love bass. We now catch twice as many bass each year as brook trout. And we don’t have to grow bass in a hatchery!

As a life-long lover of our native brookies, this makes me sad. But don’t get me wrong. I love to catch bass too.

Here’s the recent report from Michigan.

More than 33 million fish stocked this spring and summer means plenty of angling opportunity 

The Department of Natural Resources today announced the final totals from its spring and summer fish-stocking efforts. The DNR’s Fisheries Division stocked a total of 33,308,068 fish that weighed more than 343 tons and consisted of nine different species and one hybrid.

To complete this task, it took more than 400 stocking trips to more than 750 stocking sites, with travel totaling more than 105,000 miles over the course of 2,624 hours using 17 specialized stocking trucks.

“We experienced outstanding spring and summer stocking seasons that will bring significant benefits and fishing opportunities to Michigan anglers,” said DNR Fish Production Manager Ed Eisch. “With the hard work and dedication of our staff, fish were reared and delivered to stocking sites in excellent condition. The numbers produced and stocked were right on target for almost all areas.”

The number and type of fish stocked throughout the year varies by hatchery, as each location’s ability to rear fish varies because of and the source and temperature of the rearing water. In Michigan there are six state and two cooperative hatcheries that work together to produce the species, strain and size of fish needed by fisheries managers. These fish must then be delivered at a specific time and location for stocking to ensure their success.

Each hatchery stocked the following fish this spring:

  • Marquette State Fish Hatchery (near Marquette) stocked 624,695 yearling lake trout, brook trout and splake (a hybrid of lake trout and brook trout) that in total weighed 67,476 pounds. This hatchery stocked a total of 113 inland and Great Lakes sites.
  • Thompson State Fish Hatchery (near Manistique) stocked 1,045,079 fish that included yearling steelhead and spring fingerling Chinook salmon. These fish weighed 118,826 pounds in total. This hatchery stocked 68 sites (the majority located on the Great Lakes).
  • Oden State Fish Hatchery (near Petoskey) stocked 626,317 yearling brown trout and rainbow trout that in total weighed 102,273 pounds. This hatchery stocked 182 inland and Great Lakes sites.
  • Harrietta State Fish Hatchery (in Harrietta) stocked 1,122,827 yearling brown trout and rainbow trout that in total weighed 98,089 pounds. This hatchery stocked 275 sites (the majority located inland).
  • Platte River State Fish Hatchery (near Honor) stocked 2,550,355 fish that included yearling Atlantic salmon and coho salmon and spring fingerling Chinook salmon that in total weighed 168,246 pounds. This hatchery stocked 19 sites (the majority located on the Great Lakes).
  • Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery (near Kalamazoo) stocked 986,089 fish that included yearling steelhead and spring fingerling Chinook salmon that in total weighed 124,113 pounds. This hatchery stocked 54 sites (the majority located on the Great Lakes).
  • A cooperative teaching hatchery at Lake Superior State University (in Sault Saint Marie) stocked 36,790 Atlantic salmon weighing 4,847 pounds into the St. Marys River.

Included in this year’s total of fish stocked were walleye spring fingerlings and fry to the tune of 26 million. These fish are reared in ponds by the DNR and tribal partners with extensive support provided by local sportsmen’s organizations. These fish were stocked at 55 inland lakes and rivers and two Great Lakes.

“We had an exceptionally good year for walleye production. Hatch and early survival was fantastic, which resulted in many more fry than we can rear to fingerling size,” said Eisch. “Fortunately, a newly funded project included in the 2017 budget should allow us to put in additional rearing ponds at Thompson State Fish Hatchery. Expansion of Michigan’s coolwater program would get us even closer to being able to reach all of our walleye and muskellunge rearing targets.”

Fish stocking is a critical activity of the DNR. These efforts help pump between $2.4 and $4.2 billion into the state’s economy through the sportfishing industry and associated businesses. As a frame of reference, 2015 stocking efforts totaled nearly 25 million fish.

Fish are reared in Michigan’s state fish hatcheries anywhere from one month to one and a half years before they are stocked.

It should be noted that some hatcheries will provide fish for a few additional stockings to be made this fall consisting of brook trout, Atlantic salmon, lake sturgeon and muskellunge. The lake sturgeon will come from the DNR’s other cooperative hatchery in Tower that is operated with Michigan State University.

The DNR always welcomes visitors to its state fish hatcheries and interpretative centers to witness first-hand the fish-rearing process and to learn about Michigan’s remarkable waters. For more information, visit Michigan.gov/hatcheries.

The DNR maintains a public database of fish stocking records which can be reviewed at michigandnr.com/fishstock.

Fish stocking trucks – like the one shown here – traversed the state this spring and summer to stock fish in public waterbodies all throughout Michigan./

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.


George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.