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Lake Superior commercial fishing operations report record numbers

Aug 20, 2018 08:02AM ● By Editor

A lake trout sits in a bucket Wednesday, October 25, 2017 after being pulled from a net in Lake Superior. Derek Montgomery for MPR News 2017

From Minnesota Public Radio - August 19, 2018

Commercial fishing operations near the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior are reporting record numbers of whitefish and a strong recovery of lake trout since a decline in the early 2000s.

Commercial fisherman Craig Hoopman told the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board that he's seeing record numbers of young whitefish and a strong rebound in lake trout numbers, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

Fishing has been exceptional so far this year, said Hoopman, who chairs the state Department of Natural Resources Lake Superior Commercial Fishing Board.

"We're averaging between 2,500 and 3,000 pounds of whitefish per day in the traps right now and releasing thousands of sub-legal fish," he said. "There's just multiple year classes of fish."

Whitefish is the most sought-after species, but Hoopman said he's also seeing strong numbers of lake trout after a decades-long population decline that began in 1950s.

"There's around three year classes of lake trout that I'm seeing daily that are extremely large," he said. "Very nice, beautiful-looking fish, healthy. The whitefish, the lake trout, all the species that I'm seeing every day, they are feeding well, they're just healthy-looking fish."

Lake trout populations crashed during the 1950s and 1960s due in part to the introduction of invasive sea lamprey, said DNR fisheries biologist Brad Ray.

The DNR, the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission have worked for decades to reduce the numbers of lamprey, which has allowed the lake trout population to recover, Ray said.

Hoopman credited refuges near the Apostle Islands for letting the whitefish and trout populations boom.

"We have a fishery that is protected here," he said. "It is of such utmost importance of our restricted use areas and the refuge that we have in place that have been there for a long time to protect these fish and also our closed season dates."

If the younger whitefish and lake trout are able to grow to maturity, the Apostle Islands and South Shore region of Lake Superior could become a national sport fishing destination, Hoopman said.

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