Hi Zwig, I didn't talk to Fish and Game...I talked to someone who talked to them. What I heard was the tanks shape would change and that the shape has impact on fish growth. I did not hear any discussion of a new circulation system or other changes. One thing is certain...we do not have any year 1-2 class fish to speak of. When the 3+ fish are gone (harvested) Winni will be a rainbow/laker fishery with "some salmon" here and there unless the root cause of the issue is found and dealt with. THEN it will take a few years for the fishery to recover. IF the tank change addresses the issue...I'm guessing we have 5 years of recovery with the quality and quantity of fish dropping for the first 3. I know its a put and take fishery and keeping some for the grill is legal but consider releasing rather than keeping fish when possible.
I recall that when the last head hatchery person was replaced that the discussing then was the fish were too small when released and the next person let the fish grow a few more inches but it was said then that this is costly (so it was a cost decision). If cost is why the fish don't spend a few more months growing...I am all for Fish and Game not stocking ponds that limit public access like Big Island or Cobbets and I'm sure there are several others...to pay the bill.
Circular tanks would make a big difference. From what I understand a circular tank will provide a much higher oxygen level, increased growth rate and overall healthier fish. They are apparently a lot easier to maintain. The state currently does not use these and obviously to replace what they have to circular tanks would be a significant cost and budget issue I am sure.
I too have concerns with the patterns I have seen during the 2018 season on Winni to include...
#1. There is no doubt that this year’s predominant catch has been the 3 year old (no clip) salmon. I would estimate that 90% of the fish I have personally caught have been 3 year old’s. Unlike years past where a range of salmon from 2 -6 year old’s were being caught, this year is definitely and predominantly 3 year old fish.
#2.The lack of caught 2018 stocked fingerling salmon. Usually after the lake is stocked with the fingerlings, all of us will usually catch a few. I actually change certain lures which seem to attract these fingerlings in an effort to minimize their catch or move from an area where they seem to be in abundance. The “Mini Mooselook” is a prime example of a lure that definitely entices these young salmon. To date this year, I personally have not caught a single stocked fingerling and very few of my friends have as well. This is extremely concerning and I am wondering if the fish that were stocked were so small they have become “bait”.
#3.For whatever reason I have noticed for the past few years that of the culled salmon none had any white perch fry in their stomachs. This observation is still holding true this season thus far. I am not sure why this is unless the smelt are so abundant and so preferred there is no need for them to be eating white perch fry...or are the white perch fry being killed off some other way??....
I will say that the 3 year olds that are being caught are absolutely beautiful in size, weight and health!! Many are in the 22” – 24” range and can weigh as much as 4 lbs or more! The ones which have been culled are filled with YOY smelt. Enjoy it while they last!!
I agree that something needs to change quickly!
Dan, are you talking about the “full size” rearing tanks for the salmon? The small tanks which I think they are “reared” in once they are past the fry/egg yolk stage are circular. The big ones outside are rectangular, and I wasn’t sure which you were referring to.
They need warmer water earlier in their development. When they are growing in the winter the lake water is frigid. If it was warmer they would grow faster. A recirculating system would get this done I think.
For your #3 response on the WP yoy, I think you are spot on that the salmon are just taking advantage of the abundance of smelt. The last two years ice fishing I have seen more smelt than the past 10 years combined.
I sadly have not been out much this year, but I have the last week in September off. Hoping to spend a week up there chasing some fish. The few fish we ha e caught this year have been unclipped fish as well, and really nice specimens.
I do wonder if the different age classes are just spread out and focused on other forage? Maybe, hopefully, the patterns are changing for the fish with the abundance of smelt? I know a 20” salmon probably isn’t going to become lake trout candy, but a 7-12” fish is bite sized for them. Maybe there is enough food they have moved to different patterns?
Yes, they need full size heated circular rearing tanks to replace the current rectangular ones.
I do not believe the different age classes are spread out.
This year they stocked 55,000 salmon in Winni alone all at once and All in one location. I believe that is approximately 25,000 more than last year yet no one is catching them. As I stated above, in years past I had to make efforts in order not to catch the fingerlings....something is not right. Also if what I am hearing is correct that the current quantity to weight ratio of the smolt salmon is 17 per lb, that is ridiculously small....much smaller than years past!