Wild Caught Fish

Why You Should Eat Wild Caught Fish From the Great Lakes

We have been following the plight of commercial fishing on the Great Lakes for several years. As a result, we have been contacted by folks around the country to let us know that the assault on commercial fishing for wild caught fish is happening not only in Michigan but also in every fishing area in North America.

Are The Days Of Being Able To Buy Great Lakes Fish Numbered?

If things don’t change soon, Michigan’s remaining dozen commercial fish operations will cease. This means we must import fish like Walleye and Perch from Canada. This means restaurants, the American Legion, and other pubs offering fresh Great Lakes fish today may be unable to offer it tomorrow.

Commercial Fishing _ Wild Caught Fish
Image courtesy Simple Southern

I came across author J.Everheart, who writes children’s books and crafts on a website called Simple Southern. She is a native of Hatteras Island, North Carolina. After spending some 14 years in the suburbs of Atlanta, she moved back to her hometown and sought a “quieter life on a remote sandbar.”

One of my favorite posts on Everheart’s site was when she spent time with her father, a commercial fisherman, on Hatteras Island. She outlines a story of a dwindling way of life. This livelihood is fading because commercial fishing of wild caught fish is being sidelined in the Great Lakes: tourism. It’s all about money and promoting the multibillion-dollar tourist economy of recreational fishing. Just like the Great Lakes, the ocean ecosystem of the Outer Banks is being managed for aqua-tourism.

Limits of Fish That Can Be Taken By Michigan Commerical Fishermen

Bay Port Fisherman

Commercial fishermen can harvest a small variety of wild caught fish in Michigan’s waters of the Great Lakes. The species permitted for commercial fishing may vary depending on the specific lake and regulations. Common species include:

  1. Lake Whitefish: Highly valued and widely caught in the Great Lakes, lake whitefish are a primary target for commercial fisheries.
  2. Smelt: Once a staple in the Great Lakes, smelt populations have dwindled, influencing their availability for commercial fishing. Forever chemicals like PFAS have also put limits on the consumption of lake smelt.

It’s important to note that regulations can change based on fish populations, environmental conditions, and conservation efforts. Certain invasive species, like the sea lamprey, are also targeted for control, though they are not typically part of the commercial fishing industry.

Is Commercial Fishing of Whitefish Sustainable?

Michigan Commercial Fishing

Commercial fishing for Whitefish in the Great Lakes is considered a sustainable practice, managed with a focus on preserving fish populations and environmental health.

  1. Sustainability Efforts: The Great Lakes commercial fishery for Lake Whitefish is managed with sustainability as a primary goal. The approach includes monitoring and adjusting harvest rates to ensure fish populations remain at healthy levels. This careful management helps balance the fishing industry’s needs with the conservation of fish stocks​​​​.
  2. Annual Harvests: In recent years, the commercial fisheries in the Great Lakes have sustainably harvested around eight million pounds of Lake Whitefish annually. This harvest comprises a significant portion of the total Great Lakes commercial fishery, underlining the importance of this species both economically and ecologically​​.
  3. Small, Family-Based Operations: Much of the Lake Whitefish commercial fishing is conducted by small, family-based operations. These fisheries are a source of local employment and contribute to the regional economy by providing a high-quality, locally sourced food product​​.
  4. Nutritional and Economic Value: Lake whitefish are valued not only for their flavor but also for their nutritional content, particularly their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. The commercial fishing of this species supports local fish markets, restaurants, and coastal communities, adding significant economic and health benefits to the region​​.

In conclusion, the Great Lakes commercial fishery for Lake Whitefish is managed with an emphasis on sustainability, balancing economic viability with ecological responsibility. This approach helps maintain the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem while supporting local economies and providing consumers with a nutritious local food source.

Is Michigan Targeting Charter Fishing For More Regulation Next?

The topic of Michigan potentially targeting charter fishing for more regulation in the future is an evolving issue, with various changes and proposals currently under consideration. Here’s a summary of the latest developments and discussions:

  1. New Regulations in 2024: Michigan’s Natural Resources Commission (NRC) has introduced new fishing regulations that will be effective in 2024. These include a zero bag limit for wild steelhead on the Pere Marquette River and a one rainbow trout limit in specific areas. These changes, particularly the steelhead regulation, indicate a trend towards more stringent management of fish populations in Michigan waters​​.
  2. Charter Boat Operators and Commercial Fishers: Senate Bill 441 in Michigan proposes amendments to the requirements for charter boat operators, commercial fishers, and wholesale dealers of fish. This bill, approved by the governor, amends sections of the 1994 PA 451, hinting at potential regulatory changes for these groups. The specifics of these changes were not detailed in the source, but their approval suggests that charter fishing may face new regulations​​.
  3. Consideration of Additional Regulation Changes: The Michigan Natural Resources Commission is considering various regulatory changes for fishing. This includes relatively small changes for walleye, pike, muskie, and sturgeon in select areas of the state. These discussions, which took place in 2023, indicate an ongoing evaluation of fishing regulations, which could potentially include charter fishing in the future​​.

While these points do not confirm an immediate and specific targeting of charter fishing for increased regulation, they do suggest a broader trend towards more careful management and possibly stricter regulations in Michigan’s fishing industry. Charter fishing operations, as part of this industry, may be affected by these changes. For the most current information, it would be wise to monitor updates from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Commission.

A Glimpse of A Day with an Outer Banks Fisherman

Everheart gives some of the best descriptions of the asinine rules that commercial fishers operate in the Outer Banks as they do here in Michigan. She also outlines some chilling facts about farm-raised seafood that Americans import and consume from Asia and Canada.

Everheart’s stories make you think. Are we going to be left with no ability to eat fresh, local seafood? The alternative is to depend on huge corporate operations run by foreign countries that don’t have any of our regulations to prevent over-fishing or indiscriminate killing of animals like porpoises and sea turtles. It’s a dilemma that our lawmakers in Lansing better get a handle on.

Commercial Fishing _ Wild Caught Fish

Everheart’s first story, Commercial Fishing with my Dad in Cape Hatteras, describes fishing on the Outerbanks. It’s the story of a small-scale fisherman who goes out daily to make a living. It also points out that these fishers care about the environment and use sustainable methods.

The second story is more poignant. Commercial Fishing with My Dad- Why You Should Eat Wild Caught American Fish. She outlines the fishing practices and rules that small Outer Bank fishers operate that will leave you shaking your head. Lastly, Everheart’s story will make you think about buying just about any frozen fish from Asia or Canada.

Video: Commercial Fishing On the Outer Banks Of North Carolina

Family Ties - Commercial Fishing on the Outer Banks of North Carolina
Outdoor Skillz

Michael Hardy

Michael Hardy is the owner of Thumbwind Publications LLC. Michael was born in Michigan and grew up near Caseville. In 2009 he started this fun-loving site covering Michigan's Upper Thumb. Since then, he has authored a vast range of content and established a loyal base of 60,000 visitors per month.

View all posts by Michael Hardy →

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