From the Helm . . .
‘March Madness’ is only days away, and ‘who’s in and who’s out’ is rapidly being determined. Michigan’s charter captains will quickly be in a similar situation when the first Monthly Catch Reports (MCRs) are due the end of April (file even if you did not fish’mark the report ‘Did Not Fish’). Like basketball teams not making the cut, charter captains failing to file the required reports face a similar fate.
As of December 1, 2014 there were still 100 captains who had not filed one or more of the required MCRs. Fifty percent of those captains belonged to MCBA. That is unacceptable and an embarrassment to a professional organization. Fail to file on time this year and there will be consequences.
For years, the DNR has tried the ‘Nice Guy’ approach, sending out countless reminders to captains who had not yet filed their monthly reports’wasted man power, time and money. That will likely happen only once in 2015. The second reminder may well be in the form of a citation. If it doesn’t, I’m betting the third one will. State law governing charter boats allows ‘up to a $1000 fine for failure to file Monthly Catch Reports’. The ‘up to’ depends on the judge the captain ends up facing in court. Last year the fines that were issued resulted in the maximum $1000 plus court costs.
MCRs play a vital role in helping the DNR determine how many fish to stock the following year and where. The alewife numbers are greatly depleted in Lake Michigan; too many salmon and trout feeding on the depleted forage base will eventually spell disaster like it did on Lake Huron, where only a dozen or more charter boats still operate out of the once nearly 300. If that happens on Lake Michigan, some of the blame (taking into account the damage of invasive species) must fall on those who failed to provide essential data for fisheries management. Personally, I would not want to live with the fact I may have played a role in the fisheries collapse.
Currently, the groundwork is being laid for the negotiations with the tribes in 2020 when the Consent Decree with the Native American fishers expires. For years, we have accused the tribes of poor enforcement of their commercial fishermen. The DNR/State of Michigan can ill afford to enter into forth-coming negotiations not being able to control their own commercial fishers! The DNR will be pushing for some major changes in tribal catch reporting. That position won’t carry much weight if we can’t police our own fishers who fail to provide the same data. Pledge to get your MCRs in during the first week of every month (April-October) and make it a point to remind your fellow captains to do the same. It’s the professional thing to do!
Proud to be a Michigan Charter Boat Captain!
Capt. Terry R. Walsh, President