KEWAUNEE - Thousands of fish took their final journey Tuesday. The annual salmon spawning run in the Kewaunee River is nearing its peak.
The Department of Natural Resources says this year's run came a little early and the fish bigger than usual.
They quietly gathered below the dam in the Kewaunee River. Their five-mile journey upstream was almost complete.
“What we've done is tied into the fish's instinct to go upstream. And we put a low-head dam in their way, to force them into our fish ladder system,” said Mike Baumgartner, Besadny Anadromous Fish Facility manager.
Joe Steiner and his family gathered to watch.
“You can see them all close, you can see a lot of the fish, see them jumping up the various ladder and water little falls out here,” said Steiner of Kewaunee.
One by one, coho and Chinook salmon struggled to make it.
For decades, the egg gathering facility near Kewaunee has given salmon a helping hand.
“The fish aren't native to this area, and they don't spawn naturally on their own. So we have to collect the eggs fertilize them in a hatchery,” said Baumgartner.
Baumgartner says the facility will process about 6,000 salmon this year.
“Then they're raised for a certain period of time, and then stocked back in the lake,” he said.
And with the salmon being returned to Lake Michigan that can create an opportunity for fishermen. Some of those who make their living out here say that effort is crucial.
“As far as the fishery goes, it's gigantic. It is kind of turning into the industry,” said Craig Brandt, Fishstick Charters captain.
Brandt says he makes 80 to 100 fishing trips each summer. Brandt says salmon are becoming another choice for his clients.
“And these cohos, too are getting big. And they fun to catch. A lot of guys will tell you that's the best eating fish on the lake is coho,” said Brandt.
Another choice on the lake, which may have gotten a start just up river.
Biologists say if you want to catch this year's run, you still have about a week. After that, spawning activity will drop off until the end of October.
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