Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Coho Capitol

In the mid-1960’s, thousands of small, shiny fish called alewives began to wash-up on the shores of Lake Michigan. Originally a salt-water fish, the alewife is subject to periodic die-off on the Great Lakes, but during the 60’s, the die-offs became extreme. The stench of decaying fish caused lakefront property owners to avoid the shoreline or took on the laborious task of raking the alewives into large piles and burning them with kerosene.

The Michigan Department of Conservation’s solution was to introduce Pacific Salmon, particularly Coho and Chinook to the river, as predators to eliminate the alewives.  In the spring of 1966, Coho Salmon fingerlings were released into the upper Platte River near Honor. More than 10 million salmon fingerlings were introduced into Michigan waters between 1966 and 1970. Unlike other fish introduced into the lakes, the salmon could not explode out-of-control because it was difficult for them to breed naturally in Michigan streams.

The Coho planting program was a great success, and by 1967 “Coho Fever” swarmed over the mouth of the little Platte River. It helped stem the tide of alewives and it produced an exciting new sports fishing attraction. In 1969, the Department of Conservation opened the Platte River Anadromous Fish Hatchery, just outside the village of Honor. The Platte River would become one of the best fishing spots in Michigan when the salmon matured and returned to the river each year to spawn.

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Fishing is a popular sport for everyone.
Pet contest at the National Coho Festival.