Since the 1960s, Lake Michigan has been the home to many lake trout as a result of stocking, as natural reproduction has been extremely limited.
A new strain of trout could be the solution to that problem.
Elk Lake, in Northwest Michigan, is home to a strain of trout that researchers believe can restore the lake trout population in Lake Michigan. The trout found in Elk Lake have been self-sustaining and reproducing for years.
This strain of trout was found in 2005. Despite their unusual look, these trout did not have the fin clips of other lake trout, suggesting that these fish were indeed native. Data of these trout has been collected since 2009 and, due to the collaborative nature of the research, has just been published.
The research over the last 9 years has shown that the Elk Lake trout prefer colder waters than other trout found in the Great Lakes.
Deepwater trout have been a focus of reintroduction into the Great Lakes for various reasons, including the fact that they can inhabit parts of the lake that are underpopulated and these trout would stay out of the way of anglers.
Deepwater trout are also less vulnerable to sea lampreys, one of the original reasons for the decline in lake trout in the Great Lakes, which tend to live in shallow water.
The next step for researchers is to replicate their studies in Torch Lake. Torch Lake is nearly identical in terms of habitat but is three times larger than Elk Lake.