The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Wild salmon season returns to area Lake Superior streams


Submitted Photo

A CHINOOK salmon splashes on its way up the Sioux River, near Washburn, Wis., on Wednesday. Frequent photo contributor Gary Jackson, of Ironwood, said it was "his lucky shot of the day." The fish climb the waterfalls on the popular fishing river, then spawn.


As sure as the leaves fall every autumn, salmon from Lake Superior enter tributary streams on spawning missions.

Cohos and their bigger cousins, chinooks, head upstream to spawn in gravel-bottomed rivers, perpetuating the species.

This year, with ample rainfall following an equally wet summer, streams ranging from Black River, in Gogebic County, to the Brule River, in Douglas County, are running high, just as the fish prefer.

The females fan their tails in shallows, making beds to lay their eggs, and the males, ripe with milt, follow.

Chinooks are tasty when they first enter the streams, but they quickly turn dark and the meat becomes more pale. Cohos retain their red meat longer.

Both species are strong fighters, but while cohos reach 4 to 5 pounds, chinooks can reach 20 pounds.

While many salmon caught out of Lake Michigan are planted, in Lake Superior, most of the salmon come from natural reproduction.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says data show more than 99 percent of the Lake Superior chinooks caught by anglers are wild.

All 1.5 million Michigan chinooks stocked in Lake Superior since 2012 have received adipose fin clips via a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's mass marking program, making it easy to distinguish which fish are either wild or of hatchery origin. The percentage of fish that are wild is derived from the ratio of unclipped - versus clipped - chinooks examined by DNR creel clerks.

The MDNR said the percentages of unclipped fish have been very high for three years running.

An average of around 3,000 chinook salmon are caught yearly by Michigan sport anglers in Lake Superior, ranking behind lake trout and cohos.

"Having such consistent catches coming from wild fish is something to celebrate," Phil Schneeberger, MDNR's Lake Superior Basin coordinator, said.


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