The good news is there are plenty of fish, and lots of big ones, out in Lake Huron as evidence by what is showing up at the Brown Trout Festival Tournament weigh-in each day.
While the star of the tournament - the brown trout - has been rather reclusive this year, other fish like walleye and lake trout are more than making up for its shyness. Biologists can learn a lot from tournament fishing such as this, as it gives them a good idea of what is out there in a particular area and, upon cleaning the fish, what it has been feasting upon.
What biologists, charter boat captains and anglers are seeing this Brown Trout tournament is an increase in both size and numbers of walleye and lake trout and specifically, with the lake trou. A healthy mix of fish that had been planted into the lake as fry, and those which are wild and born in the lake from natural reproduction.
The wild lakers are exciting, as it obviously is the preferred way to sustain any fish population.
Over the years Great Lakes fish populations have been cyclical. Some years certain populations thrive, other years not so much. When the alewife population in Lake Huron all but disappeared about a decade ago, there was a lot of concern as to how some of the populations were going to survive. For fish like salmon here in Lake Huron water near Thunder Bay, numbers were greatly affected.
One of the reasons the alewife population was impacted was the rise of gobies in Thunder Bay. Gobies are an invasive species that while they have some redeeming qualities - they act like a water purifier in the Great Lakes - they reproduce like rabbits. Some fish strains are rather resilient and before too long, local biologists were discovering more and more fish, like walleyes, were beginning to adapt their menu to include gobies.
It also was discovered other populations, like lakers, actually thrive on gobies.
Thus it is not too surprising to see a lot of lake trout, and big lake trout, showing up at the tournament this year. With a healthy and abundant source of gobies in Thunder Bay, it provides a ready source of food for these big fish.
As for brown trout, try as they may over the years to develop a strain that might be able to naturally reproduce in Thunder Bay, biologists ultimately were unsuccessful and were forced to resort to planting different brown trout strains. While some fared well, others did not. And, for many years until cormorant controls were allowed to be implemented more liberally, any fry that were being planted often ended up in the bellies of the cormorants rather than settling into the cool water of the bay.
To be sure, brown trout still do roam the water around Alpena but their numbers are a far cry from the glory days of years ago.
That's OK. There is more than enough fish to be shared and taken out there and the tournament is thriving as a result of those opportunities.