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Explore Like a Local: Strawberry Creek Chinook Facility
A hidden gem rests at Strawberry Creek in Sturgeon Bay. About one mile down Strawberry Lane, off of Cty. Hwy. U, you will find the Strawberry Creek Chinook Facility.
Dating back to 1969, the very first Chinook salmon in the state of Wisconsin were stocked here at the Strawberry Creek Chinook Facility.
The Wisconsin DNR Chinook salmon program was initiated that year with the purpose of boosting the predator fish population and to control the alewife population. The Strawberry Creek Facility maintains to be the primary source of Chinook salmon eggs for Lake Michigan in the state of Wisconsin.
About the Process
The Chinook salmon that were once released at this site as fingerlings, will return to Strawberry Creek from Lake Michigan. The salmon swim their way upstream and end up fin-to-fin in a collection pond with thousands of other salmon.
During the peak season of salmon spawning in late September, DNR staff begin collecting eggs two times a week.
The Chinook salmon will be processed for data and eggs typically Mondays and Thursdays of the first three weeks of October, from 9am until noon. The processing is done by Wisconsin DNR crews and volunteers.
The crew will fill a framed net with salmon in the collection pond. The net of fish is then raised and dunked into a tank filled with carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide will anesthetize the salmon- making it easier for the staff to handle the fish when completing the rest of the collection process.
Once the fish are fully anesthetized, the fish are weighed, measured, sexed, and checked for fin clips. Once measured and reported, eggs are collected from the females.
On average, female Chinooks produce 3,000-5,000 eggs. Milt (sperm of a male fish) is collected from the male Chinooks. The milt and eggs are then mixed together in a bucket of water- this is when fertilization happens.
After fertilization, the eggs are rinsed and placed in containers to be transported to the hatcheries.
Purpose of Collection
An invasive species, the alewife, gained access to Lake Michigan through the Welland Canal in the late 1940's.
In 1967, it was estimated that 85% of the fish population was made up of alewives. Because of this issue, Chinook salmon, predator of alewives, are stocked in Lake Michigan to reduce the alewife population.
Today, the main purpose of salmon stocking is to provide a diverse sport fishery for anglers. Since streams lack the support needed to sustain reproduction, salmon must be collected each year and spawned.
No Fish Left Behind
After spawning, salmon naturally die. The salmon at the facility are not wasted after egg collection.
Fish over 36 inches are sent to local fertilizer company called Dramm, where the fish can be turned into liquid fertilizer. The bigger the fish, the more harmful it can be to consume.
Salmon less than 36 inches are donated to local food pantries. Surplus eggs from the collection are sold to a bait company.
For more information about this process or questions about the Strawberry Creek facility, please contact Nick Legler at (920) 746-5112.