From the Helm . . .
As we move toward the 2021 charter fishing season, Sport fishing and the related sport charter industry is being threatened in more ways than it has been since the nineteen eighties.
The threats come from multiple directions:
In 2019, with the support of the MUCC, the CB Association, and most sport fishing groups, the DNR introduced legislation designed to bring commercial fishing on the Great Lakes into the modern era. The tie-barred, three-bill package would, among other things, update decades-old statutes by keeping game fish out of commercial nets, establishing penalties for the illegal sale of game fish, requiring the posting of GPS net locations of commercial anglers and the mandating of regular harvest reporting to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The three bills passed through the House of Representatives in February of 2020. The commercial fishing interests immediately started a campaign to prevent the new regulations from becoming law. They enlisted the help of Sen. Ed McBroom, from Vulcan, who represents the western two thirds of the UP. Sen. McBroom, as chair of the Natural Resources committee stalled the bills. The bills were not brought to the Senate committee for review until the last 4 days the November lame duck session. McBroom introduced 143 amendments to the bills. The core groups of the sport-fishery and MUCC didn’t have enough time to review and respond to most of these undesirable amendments. The commercial fishing bills died in the lame duck session of the State Senate.
McBroom has now teamed up with Senator Curt Vanderwall, who is on the Regulatory Reform Committee. Senator Curt Vanderwall is no friend to the sport fishing community or the sport charter industry!
Senators McBroom and Vanderwall along with the commercial fish industry are publicly attacking the MCBA and the sport fishing community, describing us as unreasonable, and charging us with trying to put commercial fishers out of business if we don’t support allowing the commercial harvest of perch, walleye and lake trout. There has been no commercial fishing for Walleye in Michigan since 1967.
They have created a major publicity campaign which falsely alleges that sport fishing does not allowing the people of Michigan the privilege of having a fresh meal of Great Lakes fish. I have personally been misquoted on various interviews when I stated the facts that Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are only producing one third of the bio mass the lakes produced 20 years ago primarily due to invasives. They do not mention that the biology of the Great Lakes has changed drastically.
In Lake Michigan and Lake Huron whitefish populations are crashing and salmon populations are low. As a result, we have come to depend substantially on the lake trout fishery. If the US Fish and Wildlife were to quit stocking lake trout up in Northern Lake Michigan, the lake trout population would likely be decimated in as little as three years due to commercial fishing, if it were to be allowed or expanded beyond the current decree regulations.
The Tribal Decree negotiations are continuing, but with great difficulty. The decline in the whitefish population has caused a major re-examination of how to allocate the shared resource of whitefish and lake trout. The 2000 Decree divided the resource into 50/50 split: 50% Tribal, and 50% to the State of Michigan, with state licensed Commercial fishers getting a percentage of the white fish. Unfortunately, due to the change of the biology of the lakes the number of fish to be allocated is now two thirds smaller then it was twenty years ago when the 2000 Decree was signed.
Now the commercial fishers want a share of the sport fish allocated lake trout.
In Northern Michigan, we are already on the very edge of our total allowable catch (TAC) which will mean our share could shrink more. That means that if you are sportfishing in Tribal Ceded waters the (TAC) will likely be reduced. Having to sharing with state licensed commercial fishers would shrink it even more. Bag limits, and seasons, would have to shrink. Just as they did in Traverse Bay two years ago. The meeting to cut the limit to 1 lake trout in Traverse City was very HEATED! Our members need to wake up! It’s too late when you are having a meeting with the DNR to cut limits and opportunity. This is all going to affect our businesses.
While the water area covered by the Consent decree are limited mostly to Northern Lake Michigan, and parts of Lake Huron, all of both lakes will be effected by the results of the new decree. Everyone needs to be involved in trying to reach a good settlement.
The efforts by the commercial fishing interests to change the rules, are also very serious. The regulation changes being proposed by McBroom and Vanderwall, if adopted would cover all the Great Lakes waters of Michigan, from Lake Superior to Lake Erie. It would include all of Lakes Michigan and Huron, including Saginaw Bay, It would also apply to Lake St. Clair and all of Michigan waters of Lake Erie. We must be resolute and determined to resist these efforts to allow the commercial taking of Michigan’s sport fish. The Michigan Fish Producers are attempting to win over the public with their media campaigns. And in the process, attempt to make sport fishers and the MCBA look like we are bad guys. We need you, our members, to go after these groups with facts, and stick to the biology of the lakes on social media. Just look up Michigan Fish Producers or Fishtown Historic Society. People are throwing money at these two groups, in an effort to keep allowing them to net a shrinking resource. They have high paid lobbyists, and apparently they have donated a bunch of money to a couple of Senate campaigns.
Captain Bill Winowiecki
Michigan Charter Boat Association