Each year in late April or early May the Grand Haven and Grand Rapids Steelheaders take delivery of Chinook (King) Salmon from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). These salmon are put into the net pens located at the Grand Haven Municipal Marina.
The fish are fed and cared for until they smolt and loose their parr marks (vertical bars on the body). Typically the net rearing lasts a month before they are released into the Grand River. Almost immediately the salmon will start feeding on their own, targeting fresh bug hatches, as they make their way out to Lake Michigan.
From studies conducted, it has been determined that the fish fed and acclimated in the net pens have a dramatic improvement in return rates compared to fish planted directly in the river.
Biologists with the Fisheries Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment have indicated that…… "Based on coded-wire tag data analysis from Michigan's studies during the 1990's, net pens in Lake Michigan tend to produce higher effective survival rates to the lake fishery than direct stockings to receiving waters. The results of these evaluations showed that fish cultured in net pens provide almost twice the survival rate of direct stockings.”
The Grand Haven net pen project is a result of the partnership of the Fisheries Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the Grand Haven Steelheaders, the Grand Rapids Steelheaders, the Metro West Steelheaders, the Grand Haven Charter Boat Association, the Grand Haven Off Shore Challenge fishing tournament and the City of Grand Haven. In this effort, we have been assisted by many volunteers and local businesses.
Through the net pen project, fishing opportunities on Lake Michigan are greatly enhanced for all anglers.