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Lake herring restoration is being considered for Lake Michigan

Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on

Published in Outdoors

Since it operates a national fish hatchery system to assist with recovery of threatened or endangered species or to restore native species before they become threatened or endangered, USFWS staff has been involved with the task group from the beginning.

Lake herring historically spawned throughout the lake, Bronte said, including in rivers and in deep water.

The goals of a lake herring restoration would be to help feed trout and salmon and diversify the forage base by boosting numbers of a native fish.

Lake herring are still found in good numbers in Lake Superior but are extremely low in Lake Michigan, according to researchers.

Since the original genetic strain is still available in the Great Lakes, it could be feasible to obtain enough brood fish or eggs to raise fish in the hatchery system and stock into the lake.

Hypothetically, Bronte said a higher lake herring population could help improve several issues now seen in the lake.

In addition to bolstering the forage base, lake herring could also help transfer energy from offshore to nearshore through egg deposition.

And lake herring are more suited to the zooplankton community now found in Lake Michigan than either alewife or smelt, Bronte said.

The idea of lake herring restoration is progressing slowly, however.

State agencies around Lake Michigan have yet to endorse the concept.

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