ROGERS CITY - Despite cooler weather and windy days, good fishing kept boaters coming back to the Rogers City Municipal Marina this summer.
From May 1 to Oct. 15, preliminary numbers show boaters used the marina launch ramp 923 times, not including launches by the 63 seasonal launch pass holders, Harbormaster Roger Wenzel said. Transient boaters reached 380, slightly down from last year, and seasonal slip holders increased to 52. New rates for half-season slip rentals and boats 25 or 26 feet long helped bring new customers, although low water levels may have kept some larger sail boats out of the marina.
"We had a lot of positives," he said of the season. "There's always one or two negatives, but there were a lot of positives and a lot of compliments on the dockhands and how well they know their job."
The marina's financial situation looked positive as well, interim City Manager Terri Koss said. From Jan. 1 to Oct. 25, the marina brought in $251,559.93 and spent $212,366.22. There's still considerable debt to be paid on bonds issued for the marina, but its finances appear stable for now.
Wenzel credited the Harbor Advisory Committee and City Council for allowing him to adjust prices. To attract new boaters, they approved new, half-season rental rates and prices for 25- and 26-foot boats. The first attracted a few anglers, and the second saved boaters $125 or $200 for the year, depending on how long they rented a slip.
"There were a couple boaters that didn't take us up on that offer, so if I can get the word out, maybe we can bump that up by a couple this (coming) year."
In March, Wenzel and others went to the Spring Boating Expo in Novi in an effort to promote the marina, he said. The show was aimed more at inland boating, focusing on jet skis and pontoons rather than Great Lakes angling boats. Their efforts netted at least one half-season slip holder, and next year Wenzel will look for a show that caters to the niche Rogers City's marina serves.
If the salmon keep biting, as they have been for the past few years, Wenzel said he's hoping to bring in another fishing tournament. Fat Hogs Fishing Frenzy and Ladies Classic had a good year, and he's in talks with a club in Millersburg that's interested in holding its own tournament.
"The more traffic we have in the harbor, the more it helps everybody," he said.
The summer's inconsistent weather did have an impact on fishing, and in turn, boating, Tim Bruning said. The fishing charter captain and Harbor Advisory Committee member said the fish would be biting one day but not the next. Cold weather could affect fish behavior, and windy days might cause them to scatter.
"Some guys had real good success, some went a long ways between successful days," he said. "All in all, I'd say it was up for most of the summer."
Although the marina is closed for the season, anglers are still hitting the water as they go after late fall fish, Bruning said. His own business was down this summer, likely due to the weather. If one group had a bad day on the lake, they might tell their friends and prompt them to seek better fishing in Lake Michigan.
Rogers City is getting a piece of nearly $21 million allocated by the state for emergency dredging, according to the Department of Natural Resources' Waterways Commission. The move comes in response to record-low water levels in lakes Huron and Michigan early in the year. Preliminary data shows lake levels have rebounded since then, but many marinas around the state had difficulties admitting boats with deeper drafts.
The city selected Dean Marine and Excavating of Mt. Clemens on Oct. 22 to dredge the marina, Koss said. Their bid, at $168,289.20, was the lowest of three submitted, and well below the $227,000 authorized for the project by the state.