Salmon anglers called to respect rivers and rules | News
TRAVERSE CITY – The Fall Salmon Run is in full swing and abundant for anglers who come from near and far for the adventure.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has stepped up patrols on the popular Betsie and Platte Rivers to reduce violations during the Chinook and Coho Run, which the agency says draws thousands of anglers annually. The department hopes to avoid repeating the problems of previous years at highly frequented access locations. In 2020, the DNR’s nature conservation officers responded to hundreds of complaints from the region. These included illegal getting stuck, crossing daily fishing limits, cutting down trees, illegal fires, trespassing and angling conflicts.
Violations by anglers last year resulted in fishing restrictions at Benzie County’s popular Betsie River Homestead Dam to protect wild salmon populations.
“People are trying to get access to better fishing holes,” explained Lt. Joe Molnar, DNR district legal officer for Northwest Michigan.
“But it depends on ethics.”
Although DNR access points provide legal river access, sloppy anglers have put the Betsie Valley Trail at risk. The 22-mile trail stretching from Frankfurt to Thompsonville includes sections along the river.
“I’ve watched fishermen scramble down steep banks along River Road, ignoring signs or just ignoring the erosion they cause,” said Charlie Gregory, the Betsie Valley Trail maintenance coordinator.
“As a result of repeated use, the slope has deteriorated so much in several areas that the roadsides are threatened by erosion.”
Molnar said the increase in new anglers due to the escape of COVID-19 into nature did not add much to the problems.
“When people start something new, they try to do everything right,” he said.
He advises anglers to know the rules and plan their fishing trips.
The Michigan Fishing Guide 2021, available online at michigan.gov, describes the current regulations. Anglers may also find it helpful to access the DNR Mi-HUNT guide at mcgi.state.mi.us/mi-hunt/.
While designed with the hunter in mind, the interactive guide can help anglers avoid trespassing on private property by mapping state and federal properties, recreational areas, and hiking trails.
Molnar suggests that property owners not put up authorization signs to warn anglers. If there are any problems, he advises landowners to call the DNR hotline at 800-292-7800.
Local nature conservation officers receive support from outside the region if necessary. “We are bringing officials from counties where there are no fish drains to further protect the resource,” said Molnar.
Conservation officers are fully commissioned state law enforcement agencies.
Anyone arrested for illegal fishing can be charged with a misdemeanor, lose their fishing license, serve a prison term, and face fines and costs.
DNR’s 2020 annual law enforcement report found that 17 officers worked 900 hours during a 14-day salmon hike to protect the Platte and Betsie river areas.
The operation resulted in 3,875 contacts; 76 complaints; 349 arrests for misdemeanor; 54 violations of civil law; and 293 verbal warnings.
“We currently have a healthy and popular salmon fishery in the Betsie and Platte Rivers, and it is important to remember that natural reproduction is an essential part of maintaining our healthy and resilient salmon fishery,” said Scott Heintzelman, DNR Central Lake Michigan Unit Manager.
The unit covers inland waters and coastal Michigan from outposts in Cadillac, Harrietta and Traverse City.
“Following nature conservation laws and adhering to these water systems is a way for anglers to ensure a strong salmon fishery in the future.”