Balance between predator, prey resulting in bigger salmon this fall run

Cadillac News –

As a fishery biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources you could say Mark Tonello’s job can be a little fishy.

So when Tonello sees pictures of people holding monstrous salmon like the one Larry Raney caught on Monday — It brings a smile to his face. For those who haven’t seen the picture, Raney is holding a giant-sized chinook that was estimated to weigh 40 pounds after he battled to land the salmon while float fishing on the Big Manistee River. The fish also measured in at 3.5 feet long.

Reports of larger fish being caught have been part of the conversation of the fall salmon run in 2019 and Tonello said the increased fish size is due to better balance between predator and prey. To achieve that balance, however, Tonello said it took hard work and sacrifice that was shared by many.

Tonello said since the late 1980s, the amount of alewives in the Great Lakes has been shrinking. In Lake Michigan, alewives hit record lows between 2013-15. As a result, Tonello said there was real concern about chinook’s forage base — i.e. alewives — crashing. He said the DNR didn’t want to repeat what happened in Lake Huron. During the early 2000s, the alewives population crashed, which led to the chinook fisheries also crashing.