2021 Winter Presidents Report

From the Helm . . .
As 2021 comes to a close, I am reflecting on the MCBA’s past year and that of the charter fishing industry in general. The fishery was generally excellent with many charter businesses reporting increases in business, and with good to great fishing much of the year. Covid seems to have had very little effect on the number of charters this season. It possibly may have had a positive effect as people wanted to get outside and do different things. There was a new Great Lakes States record king salmon caught off Ludington by a customer on an MCBA Captain’s charter boat. It’s good to have the record back in Michigan.

The Michigan Charter Boat Association had a highly successful fall conference in Bay City. A special thank-you goes out to the board; all the guest speakers and those who attended. 2022 will be the 50th Anniversary of the Michigan Charter Boat Association. Fifty years of service to the industry is a significant achievement that deserves Celebrating. The Association is planning the Celebration activities as I write. One of the main reasons the MCBA exists is to confront the challenges that our fishery and the industry face in the state of Michigan.

Many of our members are on ‘The Lake Michigan Citizens Advisory Committee’. The committee met several times this year and encouraged the MDNR to increase the king salmon plant. Michigan fishermen had accepted the recent big hits in the salmon plants. Jay Wesley, the Lake Michigan Basin Coordinator was supportive of the plan. The committee members agreed to the biology and the predator-prey ratio data. Unfortunately, the MDNR’s plan was not agreed to when the whole combined Lake Michigan Committee (Michigan, Illinois, Indiana & Wisconsin) met. The plans for a larger plant were postponed until the outcome of this year’s plant can be evaluated. It was also the opinion of the Lake Committee that changing the plants this year could also make reaching a new Consent Decree more difficult. The MCBA is very disappointed in the Lake Committee’s decision, but we appreciate the efforts of the MDNR to promote the bigger plants. It is planning to, hopefully, make the larger plants next year. We understand the requirement for planning lake wide even though it sometimes seems to thwart our own unique Michigan goals.

The Tribal decree negotiations are dragging. Due to the confidentiality agreements between the parties; sadly, I cannot detail the reasons why. Frustration is starting to set in for the core groups in the ‘Coalition to Protect Michigan Resources’. However, we are all still here five to seven days a week resolutely plugging away, struggling to resolve all the issues, and reach an acceptable Consent Decree. It’s been very hard work, to say the least. Our goals haven’t changed. We have to maintain a shared resource. We have to figure out how to rehabilitate white fish. We have to rehabilitate lake trout, and we have to rehabilitate salmon. We have to prevent gear that is incompatible with sport fishing. The Federal District Court Judge John Maloney is monitoring the negotiations more closely with more status conferences. There is a mediator in place to attempt to resolve the differences between the Tribes, the Federal government, and the State of Michigan.The Judges have just extended the existing decree for a third time until June 30, 2022. The MCBA still needs your financial support to keep our team in place until we reach an agreement. Please consider putting in a few bucks in the Tribal fund when you renew your membership.The state-licensed commercial industry has been rather quiet at the present time. I suspect it will stay this way until after the elections in the fall. All and all 2021 has been a lot of work for the MCBA and the Coalition to Protect Michigan Resources, whose main goal is to preserve and protect our fishery. Hopefully, in 2022 we can wrap up the Tribal negotiations with an agreement we can all live with. None of us wants to go back to the chaos that occurred in the early 80’s.

I wish all of our members a happy and safe Holiday season.

Captain Bill Winowiecki
Michigan Charter Boat Association