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Fishing Lake Superior this fall? DNR asks anglers to report marked splake
October 04, 2023
Many anglers say fall fishing for splake on Lake Superior is an experience unparalleled anywhere else in Michigan. When temperatures begin to drop and leaves start to turn, the splake bite picks up as the fish move nearshore.
Splake – a hybrid cross between lake trout and brook trout – have been stocked in Lake Superior most years since 1971, with annual stocking since 1990.
Marked splake have been central to that stocking effort since 2021, as part of an evaluation study. At the Marquette State Fish Hatchery in Michigan’s central Upper Peninsula, staff from the DNR’s Lake Superior and Northern Lake Michigan management units, as well as field staff from across the state, put in long hours carefully marking the splake by hand.
These fish are then stocked in the spring at three Lake Superior ports: Copper Harbor, Keweenaw Bay and Munising. Splake stocked at each port are given a unique mark or fin clip consisting of a single fin or a paired clip, which has two fins. The goal is to create nearshore fishing opportunities in the smaller bays of Lake Superior, where some fisheries are available year-round.
The evaluation study will be conducted through 2030. It is designed to help fisheries managers understand the percentage of stocked fish caught by anglers, the home range of splake, and harvest metrics such as harvest rates and fish size at harvest by year and location.
“Preliminary study results indicate that most splake remain in close proximity to their respective stocking locations,” said George Madison, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist for the Western Lake Superior Management Unit. “Splake are known to prefer shallow water habitats, meaning these fish are accessible with small boats or shore casting during the open-water periods on Lake Superior. Splake are also readily available through the ice during winter fishing months.”
Identifying the fish
So far, fisheries managers have learned that identifying the correct fin clip on splake can be difficult to do while fishing. This creates challenges when considering the reported data for the evaluation study. When looking at a caught splake, anglers should inspect it for missing fins or a jawbone clip, indicating that it has been marked. Some clipped fins can be misshaped or missing or appear abnormal.
Marked fish then can be reported through the DNR’s Eyes in the Field app to give information such as species, length, weight, sex, and date and location caught, or by contacting a local DNR fisheries office.
Anglers also can report marked splake to DNR creel staff stationed at various ports along the Lake Superior shoreline. Because they're genetically tied to both lake trout and brook trout, splake can take the external appearance of the parent species, making them difficult to distinguish. Creel staff can help to correctly identify the fish, determine the marks on the fish and record any angler trip data.
“If you’re fishing for splake on Lake Superior this fall, we encourage you to talk with DNR creel staff, who are scheduled through the end of October,” said Madison. “It takes just a few minutes to share information about your fishing trip, but those details mean better data and greater understanding about splake abundance and behavior.”
Anglers are reminded, too, that other natural resources agencies and tribal units mark a variety of fish species for different evaluation purposes. For information on fish marking in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/TaggedFish.
Note to editors: Accompanying photos and a fish fins illustration are available below for download. Caption information follows.
- Fishing for splake: A young angler proudly shows off his catch from a winter outing on Lake Superior, along the tip of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula.
- Fish fins diagram
- Crew at Marquette: Staff from the DNR's Lake Superior and Northern Lake Michigan fisheries management units, plus field staff from all over and student volunteers from Northern Michigan University, put in long hours at the Marquette State Fish Hatchery to mark each splake by hand.