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Baileys Harbor Anglers Do Well in K/D Tournament
Save Those Heads, They Can Tell You A Lot

Harbor Angler Report, July 30th Photo

The 36th Annual K/D Salmon Tournament is now history. I have not seen the final results of the top fish yet, but some nice fish came out of Baileys Harbor and rumor has it that the big fish again came from here, a King tipping the scales at almost 31 pounds. You can see a listing of the final results, when posted, along with great pictures of some big Kings at the K/D Salmon Tournament Facebook page.  Due to the poor weather conditions on the opening weekend and "other commitments" (aka my granddaughters), I did not get out on the water much during the tournament. I usually consider the cost of purchasing my tournament ticket a donation every year anyway, kind of like the BH Brown Trout Tournament. Paul and I did spend one evening out on the lake midweek and caught some really nice fish including three from 29 to 31 inches. Unfortunately for the purposes of entering fish in the K/D tournament, they were all rainbows. As has been the case for us all summer, we have more often brought 'bows to the net than Chinook. Not that I'm complaining, the aerial acrobatics and frantic runs of a powerful rainbow make them lots of fun to catch and rainbow trout are great table fare. I mentioned to Paul that I did not know of a rainbow trout tournament in the area. Maybe we could do better in a rainbow tournament than we have in the Brown trout or salmon tournaments.  He joked that if we did enter a "trout only" tournament, we would probably stop catching rainbows as well. Paul said planned to go out and catch a big salmon on the Monday after the K/D tournament. (See the April 23rd Harbor Angler Report to recall Paul’s experience following the BH Brown Trout Tournament.) I was thinking of trying for a winning salmon during the final weekend of the tournament, but I could not well up enough courage to attack the boat launch on a busy Saturday, so I wimped out and went bass fishing on the Bay with my wife.

Anyway, we caught the rainbows everywhere from 55 to 110 feet down in about 280FOW. With surface temperatures in the low 70F°s, we had to go down about 100 feet to find 45°F water. We caught the steelhead on various color spoons (not just orange) and one on a J-Plug. The nice thing about rainbows is that they do not only hit during the low light periods. If you can find them, rainbows will feed anytime during the day. If the weather is good, you can go get fish.

I did wander down to the BH Marina on Sunday morning during the farmers market to see what was going on and watch the last tournament anglers come off the water. I got the chance to meet a couple of members of the US Fish and Wildlife Service out of the Green Bay Office. They were collecting tagged salmon from the anglers at the cleaning station. As most of you know, the Michigan DNR originally introduced Chinook salmon into the Great Lakes in 1967. Since then stocking has maintained fishable populations of salmon in Lake Michigan. However, several years ago it was discovered that the salmon were spawning naturally in streams in Michigan. (For a more complete explanation of the salmon situation in the lake, see this previous Harbor Angler Report from July, 2017.) In order to identify the salmon that were artificially stocked and differentiate them from the natural production fish, the adipose fin of each stocked fish is removed and a small metal tag is inserted in the snout of the fish. Therefore, you can tell if the Chinook salmon you have caught was stocked or hatched naturally by looking for the adipose fish. If it has one, it is the result of some male and female salmon getting together in a lake tributary. If it does not have an adipose fin, it was stocked by one of the agencies charged with the task of maintaining the fishery in the Great Lakes. If you take a close look at the pictures of the fish on the K/D Tournament site, you can determine which ones were stocked and which were spawned naturally.

So what these guys from the FWS were doing was drilling holes in the heads of the stocked fish that they received from successful anglers at the cleaning station. They could then recover the coded wire tag (CWT) from the fish. Researchers can then retrieve the stocking information about the fish like where and when it was were originally stocked. By gathering information from the angler that harvested the fish, they can then track the movements and abundance of the fish in the lake. In fact, if you submit your fish to the Wisconsin DNR you will get a full report on where the fish you caught was originally stocked. I did exactly that with six Chinook salmon I caught last season. This May I received an e-mail detailing the stocking information about my fish. Here is the report:

Species

Date Caught

Year Class

Date Stocked

Stocking

Agency

Stocking Location

Chinook

6/26/2017

2015

2015

WIDNR

Milwaukee and Port Washington Harbors

Chinook

7/6/2017

2015

2015

MIDNR

Swan River

Chinook

7/8/2017

2015

2015

WIDNR

Kenosha Harbor/ Root River

Chinook

8/13/2017

2015

2015

ILDNR

Chicago Jackson Harbor

Chinook

8/15/2017

2014

2014

WIDNR

Ahnapee and Kewaunee Rivers

Chinook

8/20/2017

2015

2015

WIDNR

Milwaukee and Port Washington Harbors

All of these fish were caught within ten miles of Baileys Harbor. Note the closest stocking location was near Kewaunee. The Wisconsin DNR stocked three others in Milwaukee Harbor and Kenosha. Two were stocked by the Illinois and Michigan DNRs (thank you very much). So these fish travel the entire lake to find food and the fish we are catching come from all over. Fish stocked in Lake Michigan are being added to the entire population and may not be harvested by the residents of the state that stocked them. We are all in this together, so it is critical that these agencies cooperate and coordinate their efforts to maintain good populations of salmon in the lake.

I found the information about the tagged salmon fascinating and contributed to my enjoyment and understanding of fishing in the Great Lakes. You can obtain the same information for stocked fish you catch. If you are in Baileys Harbor, you can drop off any Chinook salmon missing its adipose (the head only) to the marina office. They have plastic bags and a form for you to fill out. If you provide your contact information, you will receive a report about your fish. If you are in Sturgeon Bay, you can drop them off at the DNR Service Center near the Sawyer Park landing. I am sure most ports have a similar drop off site. I encourage you to submit your fish. Not only will it provide you with some really cool info, it also contributes to our understanding of the fish populations and overall ecology of the lakes. In addition to the stocking information, the FWS also does testing for lamprey predation and toxicology of the meat with the harvested fish. All of this will make the fishery better, safer and more enjoyable for all. Thanks to all of those working with the various states' DNRs and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

I plan on taking advantage of their efforts this week. Now that the K/D Tournament is over, I figure I should start catching my share of salmon now. Fire up the smoker.......

 

Tight Lines, Bruce

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