Coho salmon were introduced into the great lakes in 1837, but successful plantings weren’t until 1966. Dan Madru, former Waynedale resident, has been going up to the Muskegon River to fish for them since 1973. What started out as a few guys going north to Newaygo, Michigan, has blossomed into a gathering of family and friends that happens during the first weekend of October. Family includes not only sons and daughters, but now a third generation is making their way north for the annual fishing pilgrimage.
The average adult Great Lakes Coho salmon weighs about eight pounds. There was much excitement among anglers and fish managers when Coho made their first spawning run in the fall of 1967. Since that time, the Coho has become a popular sport fish, in fact people come from all over the world to fish Michigan’s great Coho fishery.
Coho spawning-runs, up tributary rivers, occur from early September to early October. Females excavate a nest in a tributary stream’s gravel bed to distribute their eggs and the males follow. Both adults die soon after spawning. The next spring the eggs hatch and the young remain in the gravel for 2-3 weeks. When they emerge (March to July), some migrate downriver almost immediately. Most, however, wait a year or longer before descending to the lake. Once in the lake, they stay near shore for a few months, then they seek deeper waters.
Young Coho eat greedily and grow rapidly. Most Coho spend about 18 months in the lake, then they return to their parent streams to spawn (at age three or four).
This year’s October weather was exceptionally warm so there were not as many salmon in the river as usual. The camp, which may take as many as fifty or sixty fish, caught only a fraction of that this year. Still, there were other things to do. A fishing trip should never be dependent on catching fish. With weather in the nineties, the swimming was great.
One of the guys brought up a new game. It consists of four-inch square bags filled with corn and wooden target boards. The corn bags are tossed towards the wooden board which has a hole in the middle. A point is scored by landing a bag on the board, with three points being awarded for tossing the corn-bag through the hole. The course is set up similar to a horseshoe court, and the first one to twenty-one wins the game. The game is called Corn-hole.
Next spring when the salmon eggs hatch a new generation of fish will begin their arduous journey towards Lake Michigan, and in a few years a new generation of fishers will be hunting them.
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