Conservation officers urge proper etiquette on and off the river
The abundant amount of Chinook and coho salmon produced in the Betsie and Platte rivers every September – known as “fall fish runs” – draws anglers eager for this unique fishing opportunity in northwest Michigan. Unfortunately, the season also attracts illegal fishing activity and community disruption, and Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers are working with local property and business owners to correct the situation.
Conservation officers are conducting enhanced patrols to reduce the illegal fishing, camping and parking, trespassing, littering and loud and abusive behavior.
“Local businesses and communities open their doors and welcome anglers every fall,” said Lt. Joe Molnar, the DNR’s district law supervisor who oversees officers in northwest Michigan. “Many people treat the area and fishing resources with care and respect, but those who live and work in these communities are tired of those who continue to snag fish, litter and exhibit poor behavior.”
Snagging is an illegal method of catching a fish using hooks, without the fish having taken the bait with its mouth. Read more on page 9 of the 2020 Fishing Guide.
Last September, conservation officers worked more than 900 hours and made 3,875 contacts in 14 days patrolling the fall fish runs in northwest Michigan.
“Snagging, littering and trespassing are the common violations we see during the fish runs,” Molnar said. “Landowners have gone above and beyond to clearly post their private property but continue to experience trespassers wandering their land to get to the next fishing spot – often leaving a trail of litter.”
Molnar encourages anglers to walk through state-managed public land to avoid trespassing.
Protecting the river systems in northwest Michigan is essential for continued success in replenishing the Chinook and coho salmon populations. On Thursday, the Michigan Natural Resource Commission approved new regulations for the Betsie River Homestead Dam in Benzie County to prevent additional erosion, littering and unlawful activities.
Anyone found guilty of illegally taking fish may be charged with a misdemeanor, lose their fishing license, serve jail time and face fines and costs.
“At least four people served jail time for their unlawful activity during the fall 2019 fish runs,” said Sgt. Dan Bigger, who oversees the DNR’s fish run patrols.
For more on fall fishing opportunities and resources throughout the state, visit Michigan.gov/Fishing.
Anyone who witnesses a natural resources crime or has information about such a crime is encouraged to call or text the DNR’s Report All Poaching hotline at 800-292-7800. Tipsters can remain anonymous and may qualify for a cash reward. During 2019, more than $9,700 was paid to people who provided tips that led to the arrest or conviction of poachers.
Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve. Learn more at Michigan.gov/ConservationOfficers.