2013 Annual Meeting Highlights


GRAND RAPIDS By Capt. Terry R. Walsh

The Crown Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids played host to MCBA’s 2013 annual conference the weekend of October 25-27. The three-day event started with the traditional Friday evening social hour sponsored by MCBA.

Saturday morning’s workshops kicked off with an excellent presentation, “Marketing Your Business,” by Michigan Sea Grant Agent Brandon Schroeder. “The captain’s website is crucial, as 26-percent of clients used it to locate a captain,” Schroeder said. “Another 28.3-percent used MCBA’s website. Research also shows customers chose a boat based on the captain’s posted profile.”

Promoting your clients’ success is important . “Capture the moment by immediately taking their pictures with freshly caught fish, and post them (with permission) on your website as soon as possible,” Schroeder said. “You Tube and Face Book can also greatly expand your business.”

Schroeder also offered these tips: get media exposure with TV invites; write articles and post fishing reports; set up an on-line blog; send clients’ pictures to their newspapers; and don’t forget the “gimmies”: hats, pencils, business magnets, and pencils. Donating a trip is also good advertisement, and explore working out a package deal with a hotel or motel.

Western Michigan Sea Grant Agent, Dan O’Keefe, is deeply involved in a “Mass Marking of Chinook Salmon” study. “All 2011 stocked Chinook salmon were marked,” O’Keefe said. “Therefore, all returning planted salmon in 2014 will be marked, and will provide a wealth of information on Chinook movement, and it will help determine the best future stocking sites. For example, the study this year at St. Joe showed a large number of Chinook salmon came from Wisconsin while there were no fish from any of the St. Joe plants.”

Chief of Fisheries, Jim Dexter, said, “We spend 28 million a year studying fish movement and returns throughout the Great Lakes. The purpose is to maximize fish plants at the most optimal sites and avoid those sites with poor return records.” Dexter also provided an overview of the 2013 fisheries in each of the Great Lakes.

“Lake Superior had a good “mixed bag” this year and the overall fishery remains strong,” Dexter said. “However, the brown trout program in the western part of the UP was dismal, and we’re questioning continuing it.” Dexter also noted the overall food web in Superior is healthy but declining.

Lake Huron’s lake trout population is so healthy that plants, which would save two million dollars a year, may soon be suspended. “Wild fish are really beginning to dominate this fishery through exceptional natural reproduction,” Dexter said.

Walleye are now the dominant fishery in Lake Huron, and Dexter labeled the fishery, especially Saginaw Bay, as “incredible”. He also added that steelhead and Atlantic salmon are providing decent fisheries, and that “we are continuing to increase Atlantic salmon plants through 2015.”

“Lake Erie walleye were down a bit this year,” Dexter said, “but the perch fishery was very strong.” He also noted, “Lake St. Clair was named by Bass Masters as the number one small mouth bass fishery in the country. Lake Erie was named number five.”

“The biggest change in any of the fisheries was Lake Michigan’s disappointing Chinook salmon returns,” Dexter said. “We had bigger fish—fish 30 pounds and over were caught all summer—just a lot fewer fish. Going into 2014, the lake’s Chinook fishery is uncertain at best.”

The uncertainty lies in the weak alewife base, the Chinook’s 99-percent preferred diet. Only 2010 and 2012 year classes are available for hungry salmon. Dexter said the 2011 alewife year class is “nonexistent”, and that the 2013 year class is “small and could face a poor survival rate.” Dexter also noted that “Large areas of the lake have no forage base, and bloaters and rainbow smelt populations remain low.”

Stephanie Ariganello, Michigan Sea Grant Social Media Specialist, presented a number of ways captains can promote their businesses using Face Book, Twitter, and Instagram.

“The trick is to be really focused on the message you want to get across and stay within 150 characters,” Ariganello said. “It’s very important to have a goal for the posting you want to make.”

Ariganello offered the following guidelines to consider with every social media posting:
1) Why am I posting?
2) Who is it for?
3) What do I want to achieve?
4) How else can I say this?
5) Where is my posting most effective?
She followed up the questions with in-depth examples. Before the day was over, a number of captains had gotten help setting up their own social media sites.

Donna Wesander, DNR Fisheries Specialist, brought captains up-to-date on filling out their catch report forms. She said a few more captains every year (34 %) are using “On-Line Reporting”, but reminded all that a paper copy still has to be maintained on the vessel. She offered to help any captain wanting to use the On-Line Reporting. She also encouraged captains to be more careful filling the forms out—electronic or paper.

“Charter captains provide us with some of the most reliable data available for fisheries management, so it’s critical that information is accurate,” Wesander said. “If it’s not, I have to send the forms back to you to get the correct information.”

Tim O’Brien from USGS Great Lakes Science Center, which operates five research vessels and four field stations covering all the Great Lakes, provided the latest data from the study of thousands of stomachs of salmon, lake trout, and walleye as well as the acoustic and trawling samples conducted on Lake Huron.

“The alewife crash of 2004 has shown no sign of recovery,” O’Brien said. “Very few adults showed up in our survey. Rainbow smelt, though not as bad as alewife, remain suppressed, and the fish are small. On a positive note, bloaters are showing signs of increase, and round goby are holding steady.”

Trawling samples revealed a “huge increase in juvenile lake trout, the highest increase we’ve seen since 2010,” O’Brien said. “Lake trout stomachs indicate they are thriving well on rainbow smelt, goby, and some scant alewife.”

Chinook salmon continue to prefer alewife, and if not available, will leave the area or starve to death rather than switch diets, according to O’Brien. “After what happened with Lake Huron’s alewife crash, it doesn’t bode well for Lake Michigan’s salmon right now,” O’Brien said.

The walleye diet study indicates, “They are consuming roughly 50-percent yellow perch, the balance of their diet being round goby, smelt, and other baitfish,” O’Brien concluded.

Chuck Pistis was the evening dinner speaker, and spoke of his long, and storied relationship with MCBA. Afterward, President Walsh presented him with an “Honorary Captain for Life Membership” in the Michigan Charter Boat Association.

“Chuck has always been a avid angler, and has had a strong working relationship with MCBA for more than 30 years. He was a leading member of the team that developed the now online, but originally fax-based, “Coast Watch” system to provide surface temperature information to Great Lake Lakes’ anglers. He also made significant contributions to coastal communities through his work with the Michigan Boating Industries Association, and has been a leader in guiding the educational content of the annual Recreational Boating Education Conference. Among his other accomplishments are contributions toward establishing Michigan Bottomland Preserves in Lake Michigan, adapting to and slowing or preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussel, enhancing Michigan’s commercial fishing industry, and advancing water safety through education, focusing on cold water near-drowning and rip tides. Pistis has served on many state and national task forces, and has been a leader within the National Sea Grant Program.” (Steve Stewart, Senior Sea Grant Extension Educator)


The Pistis Award is given in honor of Chuck Pistis, who has dedicated his life to the preservation of the Natural Resources of Michigan. It is the highest award given to a person or organization outside MCBA. This year’s recipient is Captain Maxine Appleby.

Capt. Appleby has displayed great passion and a willingness to help MCBA captains develop the best possible professional marketing tools in the industry. She also designed and continues to work with MCBA into one of the finest electronic sources of media information available to travelers anywhere in the Great Lakes region.

A former MCBA captain herself, though she now resides in New York, Capt. Appleby remains a major part of our organization. Her knowledge of fishing and the charter industry is a major asset in marketing MCBA and individual captains as well.


The MCBA Award is presented to a captain who has given above and beyond to the promotion of our organization and the charter industry. This year’s recipient is Captain Kenneth Deaton.

Captain Deaton’s early fishing was for pleasure, primarily bass and pike on the state’s inland lakes. Then one year he took a walleye trip to Canada, stopping by Rock Port on his return to fish for some of those “new fish” called Chinook salmon. From that point on, it was salmon from dusk to dawn. He was hooked, went to school and earned his captain’s license in 1990, and he and his wife Janis formed J-Lyn Charters out of Harbor Beach.

Capt. Deaton has been a member of the Michigan Steelheaders and is on MCBA’s Board of Directors. He has worked MCBA’s fishing shows since 1990. He was instrumental in setting up the fishing simulator booth, which provides money for our scholarship fund. Capt. Deaton retired last November and will now work full-time running J-Lyn Charters with his wife, Capt. Janis Deaton, Past President of MCBA.

Finally, a special thanks to former President Capt. Frank English. Capt. English orchestrates the annual scholarship raffle after the Saturday night banquet. Rounding up donations for the raffle from the fishing community nationwide is no easy task, and his efforts are greatly appreciated.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!
Culinary Tourism Alliance invites you
House Passes Legislation for dredging and other harbor maintenance


Mailing Address: 9760 Judd Road Willis, MI 48191 1-800-622-2971