by Capt. Terry R. Walsh
The Michigan Charter Boat Association held its annual conference at the Crown Plaza Hotel on the east side of Grand Rapids and within casting distance from I-96. Accommodations were excellent, the food equally so, and attendance, though not stellar, was much improved over last year’s meeting in Grand Rapids. The hospitality and meeting rooms were spacious and well provisioned with snacks and beverages.
After a brief introduction from President Richard Haslett, Robert Dukesherer , senior weather forecaster from the National weather Service in Grand Rapids, presented an interesting look at forecasting Great Lakes weather. New weather buoys that provide valuable wind speed and wave height information have been placed at strategic locations in all the Great Lakes and more are planned for even more accurate weather updates. Using a computer, captains can access this information to gain an accurate picture of what lake conditions are before ever leaving port.
Dan O’Keefe, Southwest District Extension Educator and program moderator, provided an up-date on a soon-to-be-released study of the economic impact of the charter industry on the state’s economy. “Fishing is the number three industry in Michigan,” O’keefe said, “and the period between 1996-2006 has seen Great Lakes fishing decline 30 percent.” The last time such a study was done was back in 1985 so it will be interesting to see what the new data finally yields. This information will appear in a future issue of THE CANNONBALL.
Kelly Smith, DNR Fisheries Chief, spoke briefly on the impact of the state’s economic crises and declining license sales on the fisheries division. “This is really a challenging time for us,” Kelly said, “but we are doing everything possible to insure the quality of Great Lakes sport fishing.”
Great Lakes Basin Coordinators Jim Dexter (Lakes Michigan and superior) and newly appointed Steve Hewett Lakes Huron, St Clair, and Erie) brought everyone up to speed on these huge bodies of water. ” Lake trout,” Dexter said, “are Superior’s main sportfish and are providing a very stable fishery. Angler effort is down, so some management zones may soon see a five-fish bag limit.”
“Good new for Lake Michigan anglers,” Dexter said, ” is that the number of salmon stocked versus the number harvested seems to be equaling out. Our prey base is still lower than desired, but it, too, seems to be stabilizing.” As proof of this, Dexter pointed out that the salmon caught this year have been “very healthy-looking fish.” As a result, the daily limit will remain at five-per-angler. Dexter also added that lake trout are providing such a strong fishery that “we may be looking at a possible year-around fishery down the road.”
Biologist Steve Hewitt reports salmon fishing was improving in northern Lake Huron, but “walleye remain the lake’s dominate game fish, comprising 70-percent of the sport fishing harvest. Muskie and smallmouth bass fishing dominate Lake St. Clair,” Hewitt continued, “and fishing was superb this year.” Walleye fishing in Michigan’s waters of Lake Erie was good, but two previously weak year classes have biologists concerned.
Lt. Turner from the MDNR Law Division said efforts are being made to get in-water and dry dock inspections back in line. He also said the DNR would like to see in-water inspections extended from two to three years and dry hull inspections from six to ten years. “But, this will require legislative approval and may be a couple years down the road,” Turner said Motor Carrier Officer Joseph Austin from the Michigan state Police briefed captains on the requirements of transporting their boats from port-to-port via the state’s highways. He pointed out that eight-foot-six inches is over-width and cannot be transported without a state permit. An annual permit costs $50 and does not have the route restrictions a daily permit does. Also, depending on the towing weight of the truck and trailer, captains may need a CDL, medical card, MDOT number, as well as escort vehicles. Captains were ticketed last summer for illegally towing their boats. Call (800) 682-4682 for further information.
“Attracting Tourists to Michigan” was the theme of George Zimmerman, Vice-President of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation/Travel Michigan. Zimmerman pointed out that business travel was down in 1.3 billion travelers between 2006 and 2008. With his enthusiasm and marketing savvy, a turn-around is underway. In just four year’s time the state’s promotional market has gone from $5.7 million to $30 million , the largest in Michigan tourism history. In 2008 national and winter advertising was underway, reaching 10 million cable and TV outlets. Between March 30 and June 15, more than 5,500 commercials reached 63 million Americans through Zimmerman’s “Pure Michigan” ad campaign. This writer came away feeling Zimmerman could sell air conditioners to Alaskans! Check out the Pure Michigan website at facebook.com/pure michigan and take advantage of the free charter advertising.
After the days’ meeting, many captains and their wives took advantage of a guided tour of Grand Rapid’s NOAA weather station. Only nature’s fickle personality could mess up this high-tech, scientific forecasting! Peter Butchko, Michigan wildlife Services State Director from the USDA, gave a superb presentation on the efforts to control cormorant’s in Michigan. Several major rookeries have seen their populations reduced by half or more. Butchko pointed out that funding could impact 2010’s cormorants control campaign, but that his agency “would do everything possible to create a healthy balanc beetween these bitrds and the Great Lakes systems. Commorants are here to stay,” Butchko concluded, ” but we do feel we can effectively manage them.”
Each year MCBA gives out two outstanding achievement awards. The Pistis Award, named after the award’s first recipient, Michigan Sea Grant Agent Charles Pistis, “Honors a person(s) or organization(s) outside the charter boat industry for their assistance, support, and contribution to the well-being of the Michigan Charter Boat Association, the charter industry and sport fishing in general.” This year’s recipient is Henri Boucher, Vice-President of Show span, Inc. President Richard Haslett commended Boucher for their on-going support of MCBA and sport fishing in Michigan.
The MCBA Award is given annually to a member of the organization “who has contributed above and beyond the call of duty for our organization.” President Haslett presented this year’s award to Executive Secretary Ron Dubsky. Dubsky has served as a board member, secretary, and is currently executive secretary. He received an immediate standing ovation for his devotion and tireless efforts on behalf of MCBA. “I love this organization,” Dubsky said, “and I’m humbled by the award.” Dubsky now moves MCBA Headquarters to Flordia during the winter months. However, when important matters arise, he has no qualms about jetting back to Michigan for important board meetings.
Saturday evening saw another splendid tackle raffle by the one and only Frank English. Frank asked we extend a special thanks to all those companies who make the annual raffle possible, as this is a major fundraiser for our scholarship program.
Sunday morning, following an excellent breakfast buffet, the annual membership meeting and a short board meeting were held. An item of major concern is how to attract larger member turnout to the annual conference. This is your organization, and it is only as strong as your willingness to get involved. A membership survey to that effect is forthcoming. Please make every effort to fill it out and return it. Remember, you are the MCBA.
Finally, a special thanks to Ron Dubsky and Jim Fenner for their outstanding efforts in putting together our annual conference and to John Giszczak, who manned the hospitality room. A job well done, captains!