ESCANABA - So here I am on Monday night, as usual, watching Discovering with Buck LeVasseur.
The topic this evening is a new concept in fishing tournaments, where keepers are caught by hook and line on artificial lure and bait, recorded for size and weight and photographed, then immediately released back into the fishery.
The event was titled A.I.M. / Bay Mills Invitational Fishing Tournament and the Tribal Community in the Brimley area went all out to promote the quality of the area fishery and a method of sport fishing not seen in the area before.
It provided one of the areas largest cash pay-outs, with first place netting $40,000.
The pro fishermen follow established and uniform rules that give a quarter inch bump on measure, a model to weigh fish and then digital photo recording that will be documented upon return to the headquarters.
The three day event has a cut-off from the first day, with only 16 anglers surviving. Every remaining fisherman will walk away with money, the least of which was $1,500.
Also on the third and final day, kids are also involved and treated to a tournament of their own. There were over 300 enrolled and each of them went home with a new fishing pole.
Pro fisherman Mark Martin was featured on the show and explained how onlookers witnessed the action of the tournament and sat in amazement when each of the fish caught was assessed and immediately returned. Martin related how the fish stay in their natural waters and are minimally stressed. This is again an example of the work put forth by the Bay Mills Tribal Community to conserve the resource for sport fishing.
The televised program was refreshing and well done.
So here I am at the end of the week, feeling pretty good about things when I get a call that just about 160 miles to the southwest of Brimley, there is an incident under investigation regarding the fishery, only this time it is the commercial side.
Two commercial gill nets measuring two miles each had been located in lake waters east of the Garden Peninsula by Michigan Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officers (MDNR/COs).
The nets were appropriately marked and were technically compliant with the 2000 Great Lakes Consent Decree under which the 1836 tribes in Michigan regulate their treaty fishery except for one major issue.
Upon exam by the MDNR/COs, the nets were pulled to check content and a large amount of lake trout, walleye, burbot and whitefish were caught in the fine mesh weave. Unfortunately, most of the catch was in a rotting condition which meant it had been some time since they were checked. What is harder to understand is the find was within the first 30 feet of the two-mile long span.
To make the find even more outrageous was the marker buoys had the insignia of a commercial fishing company recently convicted for conspiracy to sell fish caught illegally of the Bays de Noc exploited by illegal take for personal gain.
The jurisdiction of the commercial fishery under the 2000 Great Lakes Consent Decree falls under the authority of the Bay Mills Indian Community, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.
The commercial entity in this case is part of the Sault Tribe and the MDNR/COs called for law enforcement from the tribe to assist in the case.
In addition to the first gill net, the second find of a net, again measuring one mile in length, was also located in waters east of the Garden Peninsula.
The COs do not have the capability of removing the nets full of fish. The measure of exactly how much of the fishery resource was wasted from neglecting the nets is potentially huge.
Unfortunately and according to information I received, the most the Tribal Law Enforcement Officer would consider as a violation was to ticket the company for abandonment and order the nets be moved.
Nothing was done regarding the wasted resource.
This is another slap in the face for those who have participated in good faith with the tribes to re-establish the fisheries of northern Lake Michigan and a contradiction of the philosophical mission statement of groups involved in the 2000 Great Lakes Consent Decree.
Effective January 2001, the inter-tribal regulatory body Chippewa Ottawa Treaty Fishery Management Authority (COTFMA) officially changed over to the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority (CORA) gathering all 1836 treaty fishing tribes under its wing and taking on a larger scope in regulation.
In describing the Tribal Fishery, the first paragraph states, "Today, commercial and subsistence fishing are as important to tribal members as they ever were. Although gear, vessels and technology have changed, tribal members' desire to maintain their culture while conserving the resource has not."
It goes on to say that, "The 1836 treaty fishery continues to be one of the most regulated fisheries in the Great Lakes, subject to inter-tribal regulations now under CORA, tribal regulations, Food and Drug Administration HACCP seafood safety regulations, and U.S. Coast Guard maritime safety regulations."
This tells me the members of CORA are noble people and by intent want to maintain the highest standards to protect and conserve the fishery not only for themselves, but all users of the natural resources.
While it may be the standard for the sports side of fishing, the same does not appear to hold true for the commercial entities which in turn will dramatically impact both in the future if not addressed in the most strict sense.
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Tim Kobasic is outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet Saturday mornings.