Pere Marquette gear restrictions update

The public meetings concerning Michigan’s new gear restriction miles are now more than half concluded. Word is that while there has been substantial opposition to new gear restrictions on the PM, a slight majority of public comments supported them. The Grand Rapids Press’ Howard Meyerson wrote this piece after attending the public meeting in Bitely.

He comes out against extending gear restrictions on the PM, apparently for two reasons: (1) gear restrictions are not an appropriate tool for managing the social dynamics on a fishery and (2) “responsible bait anglers should have a place where they can fish, too, on the PM — at least until compelling scientific evidence shows otherwise.”

Regarding (1), Meyerson offers no reason to not use gear restrictions to manage social dynamics. He simple asserts that another solution, increased funding for law enforcement, is the proper tool to manage said dynamics. We maintain that while increased law enforcement would certainly help, it is not a feasible option at the current time. State and other sources of funding for increased law enforcement are simply not available nor can be made available through the means Meyerson suggests: “communities concerned about their business and image might need to find a way to pitch in or help pay for more law enforcement.” Secondly, the improvement in social dynamics on the river are only one of the benefits of gear restrictions, albeit an important one. If the implementation of new gear restrictions can solve two major problems on the river at little to no cost, why not think they are an appropriate and effective way to manage these problems?

The second major problem on the river is the health of the fishery itself. Regarding (2), Meyerson claims that no new regulations should be put in place until compelling scientific evidence shows they will benefit the fishery. We believe this is an irresponsible position to take. It is widely agreed that the PM’s fishery is in decline. While there is no scientific evidence that this is the case, we believe it is best to take a conservative approach to managing this rare and valuable resource.  We believe that new gear restrictions should be implemented until there is compelling scientific evidence that shows they do not benefit the fishery.

And regarding Meyerson’s claim that bait anglers should have a place to fish on the PM as well, we wholeheartedly agree.  The new gear restrictions were never to be extended to the entire river.  We simply want important spawning and nursery areas to be protected so that the wild fish in this river can flourish.  Even if gear restrictions were extended to Walhalla, there would still be over 40 miles of river open to bait fishing and creel limits of 5 fish a day.  Furthermore, improving the health of spawning and nursery habitat will improve the quality of bait fishing in the lower river.

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