Mich. officials say charter fishing down in 2008

Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP) – The economic downturn led to a drop
last year in charter fishing trips originating in Michigan, and
even fewer are expected in 2009, officials said.

“The number of charter excursions dropped by 9 percent, 1,500
trips statewide,” said Donna Wesander, the charter boat program
administrator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. She
compiles data each year on charter fishing on the Great Lakes that
originates from Michigan ports.

The decline was expected, with so many Michigan residents out of
work or facing hard times.

“Fuel prices were higher. There was a lot of inclement weather
early in the season, and charters got canceled and people were not
traveling as much,” Wesander told The Grand Rapids Press for a
story published Saturday.

The state has 580 licensed captains running charters. Eighty
percent operate on Lake Michigan, where salmon is king.

Fewer Chinook salmon were caught by charter anglers on the lake
in 2008, ending seven consecutive years of increasing numbers. They
landed 67,583 Chinook salmon last year, down from 84,600 in 2007.
Their coho catch also fell last year, to 6,345 from 10,200.

Dennis Grinold, owner of Fish N’ Grin charters in Grand Haven
and the state affairs officer for the Michigan Charter Boat
Association, said the decline was inevitable because, in 2006, the
state began reducing the number of salmon it stocks in the
lake.

Brian Butts, owner of Sea Flea Charters in Grand Haven, said he
took out 138 fishing parties last year _ eight fewer than in 2007.
He expects this year to be worse.

“This year will be really bad. People who booked last year are
canceling because of the economy,” Butts said. “They don’t feel
like they should spend the money ($450 to $550 per trip).”

Grinold said while he isn’t scheduling fewer fishing excursions,
other captains are feeling the pinch and planning to get out of the
business.

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