Each year in late April or early May the South Haven Steelheaders take delivery of Chinook (King) Salmon from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). These salmon are put into the net pens temporarily located at the South Haven Yacht Club.
The fish are fed and cared for until they smolt and loose their parr marks (vertical bars on the body). Typically the net rearing lasts a month and is tended to by dedicated volunteers before the salmon are released into the Middle Branch of the Black River. Almost immediately the salmon will start feeding on their own, targeting fresh bug hatches, as they make their way out to Lake Michigan which is a short distance away.
From studies conducted, it has been determined that the fish fed and acclimated in the net pens have a dramatic improvement in return rates compared to fish planted without this preliminary protection directly into the river.
Biologists with the Fisheries Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment have indicated that…… “Based on coded-wire tag data analysis from Michigan’s studies during the 1990’s, net pens in Lake Michigan tend to produce higher effective survival rates to the lake fishery than direct stockings to receiving waters. The results of these evaluations showed that fish cultured in net pens provide almost twice the survival rate of direct stockings.”
The South Haven net pen project is a result of the partnership of the Fisheries Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the South Haven Steelheaders and the South Haven Yacht Club. In this effort, we have been assisted by many volunteers and local businesses.
Through this and other Steelheader sponsored net pen projects, fishing opportunities on Lake Michigan are greatly enhanced for all anglers.
For more information on coded wire tags, see the Mass Marking program which is a coordinated effort by the Fish & Wildlife Service and the state, tribal and federal hatcheries.to learn more about stocking success.
For other detailed Fish Research information important to the South Haven fishery, click HERE.