The October 2006 issue of Fishing Tackle Retailer had
some real goodies. We do enjoy receiving this trade magazine,
it usually has updates and solid information. This one was
especially good news.
If you are new to this column, (or like me just getting old
and don't remember 'stuff')here's a little background music.
JC and I are Michigan natives, transplanted to Montana and
then here on the far-left coast of Washington. My dad was
a commercial fisherman on Lake Huron when I was growing up.
He fished trap nets, box-shaped nets weighted at the bottom
with floats at the top. The nets are made from netting, (linen
in the 'old' days) different regulations on the size the holes
must be, and there was a tunnel which the fish swim into.
However, since it all looks the same under water, the fish
don't swim out. There were state regulations on where you
could set nets, as well as when. Limits on various fish
were established and enforced. During the late 1940's and
early 50's there were over 20 state fisheries patrol boats
on the Great Lakes. Gill nets were also legal in some
places - also regulated, sometimes more closely watched
because it is much easier to pull a gill net in a hurry,
especially if the nets were in an illegal area.
Commercial fishing took a nose-dive with the influx of sea
lampreys through the then new St. Lawrence Seaway. The
kill-off of marketable fish was immense. Very few commercial
fishers survived. These folks were a different breed. They
would rather be on the water than any other place in the world.
Good weather, bad, no matter. They were in their element.
My dad never lost the desire to be fishing again...
not as a 'sports' angler. He wanted a big boat, better
nets and a crew. There were families whose 'job' was
commercial fishing, and the tricks of the trade were
passed on through the family just like many other trades.
Trust me, no one got rich at it, but it was a good way of life.
Some states got the pollution issue in hand earlier than
others. Lakes Huron and Michigan were well into the clean
up by the 1950s - while Lake Erie continued to allow
terrible dumping of all sorts. There were jokes about
Lake Erie burning, and in places it may have happened.
Gratefully those days seem to be gone.
With pollution under control, the fish came back. Some,
like Walleye were stocked aggressively. Yellow Perch
Enter the bad guys.
Quoting the article in Fly Tackle Retailer, entitled
Lake Erie Commercial Fishing License Buyout Looming:
"Ohio's 12 remaining Lake Erie commercial fishermen could
be out of business permanently as early as 2007. Introduced
into the Ohio Legislature this past summer two bills...that
would buy out the dozen fishermen and their 18 commercial
licenses for $4 million.
The incident that Brawn refers to was the arrests of 14 Ohio
commercial fishermen, two fishing companies, and three fish
wholesalers in June 2005 for racketeering. This group was
charged in Cuyahoga Country with taking more than their
quota of yellow perch, falsifying reports and selling
unreported yellow perch - as much as 80,000 pounds over
their legal quotas.
"There's no doubt that a buyout would benefit retailers
selling tackle to yellow perch sport fishermen," said Den
Brawn, a tackle retailer along the south shore of Erie's
Central Basin. "If the commercial fishermen would just
obey the law, I'd have no problem with them on the lake.
But, unfortunately, they're proven that they won't."
"At this writing, a few of the cases are still working
their way through the courts, but so far defendants have
been convicted of felonies, racketeering and theft, and
fined a record total of $365,000."
There's more, one part which concerned me, "In addition,
judges suspended many years of jail time on the condition
that defendants have no further violations during a
probationary period. It is also the first time that
any defendant in the U.S. has ever been convicted of
theft of a wild animal."
Does that mean these yahoos are being allowed to continue
fishing? And be included in the $4 million buy-out?
Seems to me anyone convicted of violating the law should
have their license revoked - and the license not sold
again to anyone for any reason. That would take care of
the illegal commercial fishing by 14 of the 18 licenses
remaining. And while I'm thinking about it, commercial
licenses should not be re-sellable. Your Drivers License
isn't, is it? If a licensee decides to quit fishing, the
license goes back to the state, not sold to the 'highest
bidder.' That would help keep the racketeering out.
Since there is some concern about trash fish taking over
if the commercial fishing is stopped, allow the remaining
four licenses to keep fishing - until or unless they also
violate. If they do, lop those licenses off as well.
Removing the 14 would certainly make enough of a point,
don't you think?
I know violators have always been part of the outdoor scene,
hunting, fishing. There are and always will be those who
have no respect for the law, the rules, the culture, tradition,
much less anything for which they can be held responsible.
But the idea of rewarding those who have been flat caught
and convicted by 'buying out' their license is wacky. By
the way, I'd pull the licenses of those fish wholesalers as
well. They knew exactly what they were doing.
Congratulations to the Ohio Legislature. This one is good news. ~ LadyFisher
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