Salmon harvest in full swing
GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) -- When enough fish are trapped at the Boardman River Weir in Traverse City, it's time for harvest.
“We have the Boardman weir in place from the first of September through the end of October," said Fisheries Management Biologist Heather Hettinger. "We use the weir to block migratory salmon coming upstream.”
Hettinger says the fall weather causes the fish to move upstream to spawn, but the warm weather this fall has caused the movement to slow down.
“Last week really kinda got us," Hettinger said, "It was hot, slowed fish movement down and our fish didn't handle really well. But now that we’re getting some cool nights and more October type weather we’re back on track.”
Now that they’re back on track, it’s been a successful harvest.
“Extremely successful," smiled Kevin Perry, a seasonal interpreter with the DNR. "We got more fish in the first harvest than we did the last 2 seasons.”
According to Perry, without the weir thousands of salmon would all die off in a small portion of the Boardman River that runs through downtown Traverse City.
“If we didn’t harvest the fish here and catch them before they go into that spawning mode, all these fish would die," Perry said. "They’re at the end their life cycle, and we’d be basically polluting the river.”
By harvesting, the fish are collected, calmed down in an anesthetic tank, and then sorted between Chinook, Coho, and other species. Fish like trout and steel head are released back up stream, but salmon are put on ice and sent to a processing plant in Bear Lake, where they're processed and sorted. Those that are safe for consumption are sold locally to smokehouses, and the others are ground up for pet food product. The DNR says the entire process provides both an environmental and economic impact.
“By doing this, we’re able to still utilize the fish, were able to provide a salmon fishery into the Traverse City area which has plenty of economic benefits, and to keep the other people happy so they're not having to deal with the smell and pollution," said Perry.
The Boardman River Weir plans to do a few more harvests before the season ends and expects to go until the end of October. The weir is open to the public on both harvest and non harvest days.