Leland Fishery Says New Bills Could Kill Off Michigan’s Commercial Fishing Industry

A Northern Michigan fishery says new set of regulations being considered in the Michigan House of Representatives could put them out of business.

FishtownHouse bills 4567, 4568 and 4569 would change some of the operations of commercial fisheries. It would add new layers of regulation, including reporting the GPS locations of their nets to the Department of Natural Resources and increasing some fees.

It would also bar commercial fishing operations from ever harvesting lake perch, walleye or trout.

Currently, those species are only available to recreational anglers and charter fisherman. But the bills would permanently restrict commercial operations from every fishing them in the future.

“The perch and the walleye have not been traditionally a big fishery for us here but that doesn’t mean that things won’t change in the future,” said Nels Carlson, who owns Carlson’s Fishery in Leland.

Carlson’s is the last commercial fishing operation left in Leland, a town that’s known for its iconic Fishtown, where anglers lined up in shanties along the docks for many years.

They say they’re one of just two commercial businesses on Lake Michigan between Chicago and Leelanau County.

Carlson says more regulations hurt their 120-year-old family business.

“It’s putting more regulations on what we can do, so that ultimately, they will eliminate commercial fishing from the Great Lakes,” said Carlson. “It’s pretty unbelievable, but they still want to impose regulations like they do every year and make it harder and harder for us to catch fish.”

Representative Jack O’Malley sponsored two of the bills being considered. He says he feels for mom and pop businesses but defends the decision to limit some species to recreational fisherman.

“As we look at our fisheries in the state of Michigan, they have been built and supported by the sport fisherman all these years…their tax dollars, their fees, they’re supporting the state’s fisheries, not the commercial fisherman,” said Representative O’Malley.

The DNR says they also support the set of bills because they modernize the regulatory framework in the industry.