Frozen Lakes Causing Whitefish Shortage - Northern Michigan's News Leader

Frozen Lakes Causing Whitefish Shortage

Posted: Updated:

If you love whitefish you may be aware of shortages.  Prices are high for whitefish. They're not catching as much because of the frozen Great Lakes.  

When your restaurant has whitefish in its name, like Scalawag's Whitefish in Traverse City, you might be concerned about what they're saying about your namesake fish. But owner Jamo Washburn, as he's called, says he's not, but he also knows the situation. 

"We really don't have trouble getting whitefish right now, but the frozen is being depleted.  And normally this time of year, there's open water, and they're fishing," said Jamo.

In Leland, Carlson Fisheries is opening for the season, in Fishtown. The commercial fish processor also knows the situation, but he's seen a lot in his business. 

Nels Carlson said, "it's real cyclical.  People I think are real quick to jump on a negative bandwagon.  I mean, last year, we processed more fish than we've ever processed before, in my time here. You know the whitefish fishery last year, we did see a record high price.  And that was you know, a hard thing to deal with.  But you know, it's supply and demand."     

Both Nels and Jamo believe the key to plentiful whitefish, is the ice melting on Lakes Michigan and Superior. They hope they're right.

But if the worst happens, Jamo says they'll be ready. "Just recently I brought in North Atlantic cod, which I never have before.   And it's really taken off pretty well.   It's a very tasty, flaky fish, but I'm trying to off-set the heat on the whitefish." 

"The Lake is what it is. It's a managed resource, pretty much. The whitefish not a stocked fish, we rely on natural processes to reproduce, and stay healthy, but they seem to adapt to the lack of feed that some other species have seemed to succumb to," said Nels.

And he blames invasive zebra mussels for that, but says some whitefish he's seen, have eaten zebra mussels.