Herring numbers in Lake Superior likely to see big boost following strong year class in 2022
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Outdoor News

Herring numbers in Lake Superior likely to see big boost following strong year class in 2022

It’s a good winter to be a predator fish in Lake Superior along Minnesota’s North Shore.

“Lake trout, chinook salmon, coho salmon, anything that likes to eat little silvery fish are living their best life right now in Lake Superior,” said Cory Goldsworthy, the Lake Superior area supervisor with the Minnesota DNR.

The reason, Goldsworthy explained during a recent WTIP interview, is that lake herring had a very successful year of recruitment in 2022 into the lake’s overall population of the prized species.

The lake herring, or cisco, are a key component of the Lake Superior fishery and its food chain. Herring provided the largest commercial fishery on Lake Superior dating back to the 1940s, producing up to 19 million pounds annually during high-catch seasons, according to the DNR. And while those numbers have dramatically declined, even during low-catch years, such as 2014 and 2015, anglers, primarily commercial anglers, harvested hundreds of thousands of pounds of the fish from Lake Superior, according to the DNR. And that’s just in Minnesota waters. Throughout the lake, on average more than a million pounds of herring are harvested annually.

The population of herring has declined in recent years due to a combination of factors, including fishing pressure, a lack of ice on Lake Superior (cold water that lasts deep into the summer is ideal for herring), and commercial anglers gathering roe that ends up in Scandinavian countries.

However, last year sheds a positive light on the herring population in Lake Superior. Both state and federal researchers will know more as they continue to study the herring population in Lake Superior this spring. If projections go as expected, the class of 2022 could be on pace with huge year classes similar to those seen in 1984 and 2003, Goldsworthy said.

“I’d say (last year) is probably going to be as big or bigger than 2003,” Goldsworthy said. “But I’d love for it to be as big as 1984. We’ll just see what happens ecologically.”

To listen to the full interview with Goldsworthy listen to the audio below.