By Captain John Giszczak
In January I began to receive and answer the MCBA 800 number phone calls. Many of the early calls were interesting calls from captains regarding membership application forms. Most of the questions were regarding the drug program. Several of the captains had waited too long to mail in their applications and had to pay the extra $55 fee to get retested. Remember, by law, you must be an active member of a continuing drug test program such as the MCBA program or be within 6 months from your last drug test when you renew, or you are no longer covered. In other words when you let your membership lapse over 125 days you basically have to start all over again. I was stunned at the number of captains that had let this happen. In some cases there were calls about applications that had already been mailed. I soon learned that it is very helpful if the caller had made a copy of the application and check before mailing.
I strongly recommend that you make and keep a photocopy of your MCBA membership application and your check before you mail it. This serves two purposes: one, you have a record of your application in case MCBA Central has questions about the application and two, making a copy gives you a reference for the next year. I also had a number of questions from captains about their websites, not being listed or had wrong information. Please double check the MCBA website to see that your site is listed in the proper port and the link from the MCBA website to yours is also correct. Doing this at the time of your application will give everyone time to be sure everything is correct. Don’t wait until the season is in full swing to find out you have a broken link.
Most of the questions I fielded from the 800 number calls during the months of May through August were from people in the general public taking vacations. These folks call the 800 number on the MCBA website to ask about fishing while on vacation. To respond to these inquires, I first would ask what area of the state they plan to vacation in; from there I would guide them through our website to the appropriate closest port. After that I would recommend they call as many captains as they felt comfortable with to book their trip. I also recommended that the vacationers ask as many questions as possible. They also had questions regarding nearby lodging and camping. Some asked if I could recommend a captain, and I told them I could not, but let them know that all MCBA members are U.S. Coast Guard licensed and operate DNR inspected vessels.
I was actually stunned by the number of phone calls I received for people looking to go on a fishing trip somewhere in Michigan. A word to the wise: spend the extra 10 bucks to be listed on the MCBA website.
The MCBA is now working on a plan to improve our 800 number calling services. As a part of this plan we hope to put in place a selectable menu.
The menu would give the caller options to lead them to an MCBA board member, who could best answer that particular caller’s question. The new message system will work something like this: “Thank you for calling Michigan Charter Boat Association. If you know the extension number of the person you are trying to reach, you may choose it now: Press 1 for the Michigan Fishing Report; Press 2 for General Information; Press 3 for Drug Program Information; Press 4 for USCG License Renewal Information; Press 5 for any other question. For more information about our captains go to fishmcba.com.
Finally, I’d like to mention on last thing about MCBA communications: We are always in need of additional Port Captains to help with member communications. There is a ton of information that the members of the board of directors would like to pass on to you through a local Port Captain. Email is a convenient way to pass this information along. So get involved, it only takes a few minutes a month to gain years of knowledge.