Indian tribe stocks lake trout in Lake Superior

Michigan State Roundup

Published July 1, 1994  | July 1994 issue

The Keweenaw Bay Tribal Hatchery is keeping commercial and sport fishing lines busy by preserving lake trout populations in Lake Superior.

Working in conjunction with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the hatchery—established in 1989—released approximately 44,000 lake trout this spring and plans to stock about 70,000 this fall, says tribal biologist Michael Donofrio.

Stocking trout has helped ease tensions between Indian commercial fishing operations and sports fishing enthusiasts, Donofrio says. Conceptions that commercial fishing infringes on sports fishing have diminished since Indians have taken responsibility for managing trout populations, according to Donofrio. "There are political ties with stocking fish. The reservation is here and there hasn't been any fish stocked since 1980," Donofrio says.

The Great Lakes Fishery Commission was formed by the Canadian and US governments during the 1950s to combat fish depletion due to sea lampreys. The Commission coordinates efforts among hatcheries and preservation groups in the Great Lakes area. "Fish don't respect boundaries, therefore a unified approach is needed. Everyone is interested in lakewide issues because one species can indicate the condition of the entire ecosystem," says Randy Eshenroder, Commission senior scientist.

The Keweenaw Bay Tribal Hatchery doesn't only stock fish, it is also responsible for environmental clean-up, general habitat restoration and monitoring user groups involved in extracting the lake's resources, Donofrio says.

Over the next few years the hatchery will begin producing brook trout.

Funding for the hatchery is split between the tribe and a grant from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. According to a tribe brochure, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community has invested over $250,000 in the hatchery, half stemming from gaming profits. Two full-time employees work year round, while seasonal volunteers assist placing nose clips on the trout to track them in coming years.

Rob Grunewald