July 28 – State lawmakers became anglers on Monday morning, casting lines in the calm, calm, deep blue waters of Lake Michigan – which made it possible to fish and chat rather leisurely.
Representatives from the State Legislative Sports Caucus at Chinook Pier in Grand Haven were scattered to shed light on an industry worth more than $ 7 billion, according to Jay Wesley, Lake Michigan Basin Coordinator for the Department of Resources of Michigan.
Aboard On The Line, Captain Nick Keene’s 33-foot tiara, discussions focused on fishing issues and forecasting, including oversaturated, undeclared illegal fishing guides.
Lake Michigan is home to a plethora of fish species, and Wesley said stocking tended to increase after several years of decline, especially with salmon.
“Normally we put 100,000 to 130,000 every year, but last year it was 240,000 to 250,000″ of salmon planted in Grand Haven, “Wesley said. “Things are improving, so every year we add more inventory. We’ve hit a low point, but we could be up to a million by next year lake wide.
“We store the most coho, 1.5 million, and we only catch 16 percent,” he added.
The fluctuation in the stocking of salmon comes from the fluctuation in the population of alewife, as well as the change with zebra mussels, resulting in a constant change in the stocking. Wesley also said it was difficult to monitor the amount of wild fish entering the system, as it ranges between 2 million and 4 million.
The 2021 fishing season started off slowly, but has picked up since the end of June, according to Keene. Despite the slow start, the captain landed an array of large salmon and lake trout.
Wesley hopes the wild fish will help keep the fishery going, and the uncut fish will catch up as a result. The large healthy salmon caught now are in the 2016 class.
As anglers continue to battle the conditions, Wesley urges everyone to come and enjoy the ever-growing industry in Grand Haven.
“It’s an incredible opportunity for people to come and see Michigan,” he said. “For people who don’t have a boat or don’t fish a lot, having the option to take a cruise is just great. There are so many tangible things to use and protect our Great Lakes … 20% of our world’s fresh water comes from here. “
One of Wesley and Keene’s main concerns is the Pere Marquette River. The river is a hotspot for salmon and rainbow trout fishing in the fall and winter.
“This is getting ridiculous,” said Keene, who is in her fourth summer of charter fishing. “If you’re not the first guide out there, you won’t have a parking space.”
“They’re not making money,” Wesley added, “so we don’t have a clue how many are really out there and what river they’re on.”
Without a proper report, the DNR and guides like Keene wonder where and what to fish. That is why they suggest a licensing structure sufficient to remove all the chaos.
“When you launch your boat you see all the carcasses lying at the bottom of the river and it’s all these guys,” Keene said.
While Wesley remains pessimistic about a day with consistent reports, he says it would certainly help with all the speculation about the lack of rainbow trout in Lake Michigan.
“No one in the rental industry wanted to report back then either, but when the salmon first crashed with bacterial kidney disease, they all got together and said what can- U.S?” he said. “Well, if we had reports and data, we could start to understand what’s going on. So I equated that to what’s going on with rainbow trout right now.”
Steelhead has been in the Great Lakes since the late 1800s and adapts as they do in the West, with seasonal upwelling of rivers, Wesley says.
Nick Green, public information officer and editor of “Michigan Out-of-Doors,” said getting more guides on board for proper reporting would benefit the fishing ecosystem tremendously. .
“If we can get these guys into a room, it’s human nature for them to follow the herd,” he said.
“Ideally, we would have creel clinics that could interview fishermen,” Wesley added. “This is what we have along the Great Lakes coast. But we just don’t have the capacity to have trap clerks on every river system. Having guide reports would give us information on every river, at least the popular ones like Muskegon, Pere Marquette and Manistee. “
But with most industries, no one wants more paperwork to tackle. This is where Wesley wonders how the fishery can improve without any proper resource reporting.
The golden example is in charters, as current trends over 20 to 30 years allow the development of statistical catch age models for lakes to determine how many fish are actually alive.
Green envisages a positive application of the guidance legislation introduced in the fall.
“We’ve watered it down so much that it’s not rocket science to get in there,” he said. “It’s pretty easy to do. I think if we just got a license to operate, we’d probably kill 50% of the people.”
Age gaps in charter captains also remain an ongoing conversation, but Keene says there is a 24 to 30-year-old group that will lead the next class. He noted that his assistant was leading a strong class of teenagers.