From the Helm

2019 Winter President’s Report

I want to thank the MCBA Board of Directors, and the membership of the MCBA for their support in electing me President of the Michigan Charter Boat Association. I look forward to working with the Board and all of the members of the MCBA.

When I became a Charter Captain, and before joining the Michigan Charter Boat Association, I was informed that I had to be in a qualified random drug program to operate as a legal Michigan Charter Boat Captain. Our local conservation officer told me what I needed to do. I contacted the MCBA, obtained a membership application, and with a little guidance, became a member.

The MCBA fall conference happened to be at the Holiday Inn in Traverse City that year. I sort of attended between my nieces’ wedding that weekend and the MCBA meetings. In addition to satisfying my need to be in a qualified random drug program, I came to the Association with an interest in DNR trout fishing regulations. At the time of that conference, my first, I was frustrated over the 20” to 24” inch slot on lake trout in Lake Michigan MM4 and MM5. I talked to anybody who would listen. Didn’t get far, but at least gave it a try! But I was determined to pursue the issue in the future, and it became clear to me that I needed to work on the issue with the help of the MCBA.

The following fall MCBA conference was in Lansing. I talked my wife, Sue into attending. I told her it would be a weekend away. There would be many wives in attendance. It should be fun. And it was both fun and interesting.
Sue and I went to Lansing. The MCBA board held a meeting on the Friday evening before the conference. Another young Captain, Dave Lindberg talked me into sitting in on the board meeting. I was hooked; I began to think, maybe I could make a difference. Soon after, I became a Port Captain.

As Port Captain, I worked to change the slot regulation on lake trout in MM4 and MM5. We were killing too many fish that were not in the slot. Fish not in the slot had to be released, and many died. I spoke with Central Lake Michigan Director Jim Fenner who advised me that he knew we had problems with lake trout regulations up north. He stated there wasn’t anybody north of Manistee attending the Lake Michigan Citizen’s Advisory Committee, or the Sea Grant meetings, and he encouraged me to attend. I ultimately became a member of that committee.

Jim Dexter had just replaced Kelly Smith as MDNR Chief of Fisheries. He promoted Todd Kalish to Lake Michigan Basin Coordinator. The MCBA worked with Jim Dexter and Todd Kalish; the biologists, and local fisherman. Lake Trout regulations were changed. It was helpful that the salmon fishery was strong at the time and we were only catching about 50% of our Total Allowable Catch (TAC) within the guidelines of the Tribal Decree. The changes reduced the waste that had resulted from fish released from outside of the previous slot limit.

The Tribal Decree:

I knew what it was. I live right in the heart of tribal waters. I was growing up during all of the turmoil that occurred prior to the creation of the Tribal Decree. The list of problems was long: gill nets; a fishery quickly being devastated; arranged sport fisher harassment days; guns. DNR officers; the Coast Guard; Federal Agents; Local Courts; State Courts; and the Federal Courts were all involved. I could go on and on with details, but somehow the Federal government, the Tribes, the State DNR, and the Sport Fishery, largely represented by the MCBA, negotiated an agreement that all could live with. None of the parties were happy, but we have made it work for the past 20 years.
Here we are today. We are presently trying to negotiate a new, updated agreement. Captain Tony Radjenovich President of the Coalition to Protect Michigan Resources, and I monitor and assist wherever possible with the negotiations. Attorneys Steve Schultz and Chris Patterson along with four other core members of the CPMR are on the front lines trying to protect the fishery in Tribal Ceded waters.

It’s different now. We, representing the sports fishery, have learned to accept the Tribal Decree, and the Tribal Fishers. The Tribes have learned to accept us. We both want to protect the resource for generations to come, but there are some very hardliners on both sides who have been hurt in one way or another through the history of our conflict.

I was told by a Tribal member back in 2017 that the new Tribal Decree will not look anything like the old document. From what I have seen there is some common ground to build on.

Among the other challenges facing us at this time are the proposed new Commercial Fishing Statutes. including House Bills HB 4567, HB 4568 and HB 4569; The State-licensed Commercial fishers now want to harvest trout, walleye, and perch; all previously protected for sport fishing only. If that were to occur it would affect the Charter Industry forever. The MCBA is attempting to keep these species closed to commercial fishing. To keep them in the sport fishing only category. Former MCBA President Captain Denny Grinold, our legislative liaison officer is closely monitoring this for the MCBA and is providing assistance to us with the legislators. We need your support with letters, phone calls, and in-person conversations with your own legislator. The MCBA will also be doing emails and e-blasts with calls to action. Hopefully, while we are also dealing with the Tribal Negotiations, the membership of the MCBA will step up and help us handle this problem.

These are two of the main issues confronting the Association at this time. There are others, and new challenges occur all the time, as your new President, I will attempt to guide the Association correctly as we approach each one.
Again, I want to say, I am privileged to be your new President. I am committed to representing all MCBA members to the best of my abilities. I will be working every day to continue to keep the MCBA the premier, most respected, and successful organization to ever represent the charter fishing industry in Michigan.

Finally, as the Holiday Seasons are now upon us, I want to wish each and every member, the very best and the Happiest Holidays. Cheers!

Captain Bill Winowiecki
(231) 228-7417