Record number of herring thriving in Lake Superior as winter arrives to the North Shore
A record number of lake herring are swimming along the North Shore this November, thanks to high recruitment of the prized fish into the population, according to officials from the Minnesota Department of Natural Rescores.
“This is something that happens maybe once in our careers working in fisheries management,” said Cory Goldsworthy, the Lake Superior area supervisor with the Minnesota DNR.
Goldsworthy explained during a recent WTIP interview that lake herring had a very successful year of recruitment in 2022 into the lake’s overall population. The year 1984 is often referenced by fish biologists and commercial anglers who work on Lake Superior studying and capturing lake herring. The class of 2022 is likely more than double that of the previous gold standard, Goldsworthy said.
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 in Lake Superior has declined in recent years due to a combination of factors, including fishing pressure, a lack of ice (cold water that lasts deep into the summer is ideal for herring), and commercial anglers gathering roe that ends up in Scandinavian countries. However, the 2022 year class and the incredible numbers of herring now in Lake Superior pave the way for a bright future for the entire ecosystem, at least when it comes to fish, Goldsworthy explained.
“It’s going to change things for a long time to come in Lake Superior,” he said.
To listen to the full interview with Goldsworthy listen to the audio below.