May 21 09:32 PM
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Stop the nets on Saginaw Bay

Dear Woods-N-Water News:

After fishing three days around the abundant nets found south of Pt. AuGres on Saginaw Bay we found 83 percent of the fish in the area are walleyes, not perch.

Those who fish Saginaw Bay are accustomed to seeing perch nets between Pt. AuGres and Sand Point on the Thumb. But I've never seen so many perch nets south of Pt. AuGres and a quick call to the DNR answered my question about the total footage in Saginaw Bay. "We have no idea the exact footage netters set for perch in Saginaw Bay," said the DNR Official.

What's worse is DNR Law Division admits they "Have never done an unannounced boarding on commercial boats to check bi catch, or illegal fish harvested by netters."

More importantly the Saginaw Bay walleye fishery is fast going tube city. The winter catch of 2011 is the worst on record and spring fishing was the pits. Now that Bay waters are clear and walleyes schooled you can catch some fish but nothing like past years. A recent tournament brought one 4.5 pounder to the scale and that was the largest fish caught in the two day event.

The DNR keeps telling me and others in the Press that the Saginaw Bay fishery is doing fine and they have no intention of restocking. I have news for them and unfortunately bad news for fishermen; the Saginaw Bay walleye fishery is on its knees, catches are poor, big fish are gone and our splendid walleye fishery has gone tube city. I expect the fishing to get worse before it gets better.

Quick solutions would involve a moratorium on all commercial perch netting. With declining walleye numbers the DNR would have enough sense to stop gill netting perch and allow them to spawn. Hey, what's wrong with Saginaw Bay turning into a perch fishing mecca? Increased perch numbers would provide better sport fishing and increase the forage base for walleyes.

Next, the DNR needs to crank-up every walleye rearing pond in the area and immediately restock the Bay. The boys from the Saginaw Bay Walleye Club do most of the work and cover the cost for rearing, so this should be a given.

As for me and my fishing crew we trolled for days next to the nets and our test results yielded interesting data. We used 12 dozen crawlers to catch 6 perch, a handful of drum, one large catfish and roughly less than twenty non-walleye species. However, we did catch lots of walleyes, most were 10-14 inches long with a few fingerlings mixed in and some keepers too. One fish hit a nightcrawler rig trolled behind copper-wire and the brute was close to five pounds. The fishing was not exciting; we put in many, many hours on the water for our catch.

Guess I'd have to say that there were few perch in the region of those nets. Some nets had orange flags, others yellow, some had white floats and some were unmarked. The completely unmarked nets raised hell with my fishing tackle.

More importantly I would have to say the DNR is mismanaging your valuable fishery resources by allowing perch netters to kill over 100 thousand perch on Saginaw Bay yearly. Perch are valuable sport species, period. With the fast declining walleye fishery it would only make good sense to eliminate any nets, plant more walleyes and pray the fishery recovers quickly. If not, commercial nets will keep killing sport species and another fantastic Michigan fishery will go down the tubes.

Thank you,

Kenny Darwin

August 03, 2011

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