Lake Michigan is home to several species of fish. As with all wildlife, they are the barometer of the health of the environment. Wisconsin Seagrant supported fisheries are monitoring the state’s fish including the Lake Michigan population.
Some of the fish that live in the Lake have been introduced. Lake Michigan has been stocked with Coho and Sockeye Salmon since the 20th Century.
Smelt are another introduced species. Though a saltwater fish, a fresh water population is found in Green Lake, Maine. It was from this population that stocked Crystal Lake, Michigan. Some of these fish made their way into the Great Lakes and were first caught in Lake Michigan in 1926. Their population fluctuates depending on several situations. They spawn from March to May when these deep water swimmers come to the surface.
Native to the Great Lakes is the Bowfin. It got its name from its long dorsal fin. Though this fish prefers shallow, weedy water it can be found in Lake Michigan. A survivor of an ancient species it is an aggressive hunter stalking or ambushing its prey.
Both Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass are another native species. They are found in Lake Michigan and belong to the sunfish family. Unlike the Largemouth Bass, the Smallmouth Bass prefer clearer water and are less tolerant to pollution, thus a good indicator of the health of the environment.
Lake Trout live in the cold waters of the Great Lakes. They can be found in depths of 200 feet and are one of the largest fish species in Lake Michigan. They are extremely sensitive to overfishing and over harvesting which makes them another environmental barometer.
It is important for Milwaukeeans to know the fish of Lake Michigan. Their health and population levels indicate the environmental health of our area.