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The Pere Marquette winds its way some 80 free flowing miles from the tight wooded corridors of the upper river to the braids and marshes of its delta, from gravel and riffle to sand and oxbow. The river is fed by tributaries both large and small, by uncountable springs and seeps. It hosts hands-down the most prolific runs of all-wild steelhead and salmon in the Great Lakes. The middle river is famous for large resident brown trout and an epic Hexagenia hatch. A National Wild and Scenic River, the Pere Marquette receives some of the heaviest angling pressure in the state.
Yet despite the angling pressure and despite the fact that the river’s anadromous fish populations receive no hatchery support, only 7.5 miles of this amazing fishery are protected under special regulations.
On January 8th 2010 the Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced that trout stream regulations in the state had been reclassified. Stream types 5, 6, and 7 which included bait restrictions and no-kill regulations had been combined into a single “gear restricted” category that would allow for additional special regulations for specific streams. Currently there are 112 miles of gear restricted waters in Michigan. However, state law allows for up to 212 miles of gear restricted streams state-wide.
DNR Fisheries Division Chief Kelley Smith stated that, “With this change, we’re ready to work with trout anglers to review appropriate regulations for specific streams.” The DNR called for public comment including nominations of additional streams for the gear restricted category.
According to a recent article in the Grand Rapids Press, the DNR’s recommendations will be made public at the end of May and propose the addition of 38 stream miles to the gear restricted category. Exactly which streams are on the proposed list is not known, however, some of the state’s best known waters such as the Pigeon, Boardman, Middle Branch of the Ontonagon, Fox , Muskegon and Pere Marquette were determined to not fit the criteria for inclusion. The DNR will ask for further public comment once the proposals are announced.
While it may seem that all had been lost for the Pere Marquette River, this was not the case.
Kevin Morlock of Indigo Guide Service has been working deep “in the loop” to insure that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is not squandered. He notes that in fact the 38 miles of proposed water to be announced in May have merely met the DNR’s “biological assessment” requirements. The rivers left off the list did not. This does not mean, however, that they cannot or will not receive new gear restricted regulations. In fact, the DNR is holding a meeting for public comment on the Pere Marquette specifically sometime in June.
Michigan Trout Unlimited has a wealth of information on the development of the reclassification of the stream types in Michigan in the Resource Management section of their website.