Fly fishing gear

Push to legalize hooking salmon


LANSING – Most salmon live about four to five years. At the end of their life, they return to the rivers where they were born, lay eggs and then die.

This is called the salmon run. It happens every year around this time, and it is a popular time for fishermen.

During the race, the Department of Natural Resources (MRN) increased patrols in search of illegal fishing, known as hooking.

Hanging isn’t allowed in Michigan, but some anglers say it should be.

To legally catch a fish, the angler must hook the fish inside the mouth.

Dana Matthews has been fishing at Tippy Dam in Brethren for 45 years.


“I had two, I lost them both,” Matthews said. “I think they got hung on the side a bit.”

Entanglement occurs when the hook lands somewhere on the body of the fish rather than inside its mouth. The practice was legal in Michigan, but was banned in the 1990s.

The state’s concern is that hooking gives anglers too much of a benefit and can lead to overfishing, said Paul Stowe, who works for the DNR at the Platte River State Fish Hatchery.

“Their taking of so many fish has been quite damaging to some fisheries and some of the places that were popular, and so this practice was stopped,” Stowe said.

Besides the effect it has on salmon populations, some fishermen argue that the hooking is heinous.

“The first season I found these people doing it, I thought it was the most barbaric thing I had ever seen,” said Chuck Hawkins, a fly fishing guide. of Traverse City.

He says spawning salmon usually don’t eat. Their reproductive organs are growing and their stomachs are shrinking. They can bite the hook, but it’s usually out of aggression and not out of hunger.

Hawkins says that’s why some anglers try to hook fish wherever they can. He says it’s not a fair fight.

“If you’re an athlete with any ethics, it’s unethical,” said Hawkins. “Fishing and hunting are meant to be fair hunting. “

The MRN does not keep an official count of the number of salmon catches. In their bi-monthly reports, conservation officers observed approximately 100 hooking incidents during the 2018-2020 salmon runs.

Many fishermen claim that the actual number is much higher.

Not everyone thinks a hookup is bad sportsmanship, including Gordon Parks, who owns Andy’s Tackle Box in Brethren. He remembers catching salmon when it was legal.

Parks said many of her clients want snagging laws to become more lenient.

“They just want to catch a fish,” Parks said. “If the fish don’t bite, no matter what they throw at them, then where’s the fairness?” Where can we get something from this person for all the money they’ve spent? “

Because salmon don’t bite a lot this time of year, Parks said hooking is the only way for a fisherman to be successful.

When a fish gets caught in the mouth, he says the fisherman was lucky and put the hook in the right place.

While this is legal, Parks maintains that it is actually just another form of hooking up.

“You’re going to hang them in different places,” Parks said. “You keep letting them go. Finally, they put one in their mouth and they keep it, but the one that was in the mouth was still hanging on too. You see, there is the game.

As Parks sees it, relaxing the hooking rules would almost guarantee fish for anglers.

That would bring more to northern Michigan, which would economically benefit his store and others. Plus, he maintains that the fish are going to die anyway and stink the river.

Stowe of the DNR said he was concerned it would destabilize the population again if too many salmon were caught before spawning.

“If you take fish out, they can’t successfully reproduce, so under certain circumstances, especially when you allow people to take those fish out of the river so easily, it can hurt future fisheries,” Stowe said.

Stowe says maintaining these fisheries is expensive but worth it. Salmon make up a large part of the Great Lakes recreational fishery. It is already a big source of money for local economies.

According to the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission, commercial, recreational and tribal fisheries are together valued at more than $ 7 billion per year.

Max Copeland reports for Interlochen Public Radio in partnership with the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism.


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