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Nets around Whitehall

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Nets around Whitehall

The reason why I am interested in getting something started here is to obtain some information as to why the nets around the Whitehall area on Lake Michigan are not listed anywhere online, or between Muskegon as well.

Apparently the nets are not marked by any GPS coordinates.

Part of the reason why I am interested in obtaining this data, is for ⛵ safety, and to help prevent losing fishing tackle.

I am new to the WhiteHall area, my brother and I have a passion for fishing in the big lake too!
There have been too many stories and accidents that have occurred because of them as well.
It may be very beneficial to have the nets listed on the website.

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  • 2 weeks later...

We just recently took a trip to Whitehall and found three nets just North of the pier heads.

1st was about 1-1/2  miles north

2nd 2 miles north 

3rd  3miles north

All inside staffs were in about a 100 fow.

I have 2 of these marked on my graph  but do not have access to it now.

If you have anymore info I would appreciate it.



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Earlier this year emailed the DNR about making the location of the nets available online and to complain that some I've seen are very poorly marked.  Here was their response:



Thanks for your email.  The department receives one or two requests to post the locations of commercial trap nets on our website each year due to safety concerns. 

Most Great Lake jurisdictions employ some form of commercial netting on the lakes and I am not aware of any (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Ontario, etc.) that is currently requiring the mandatory posting of their commercial fisheries net coordinates online.  I am sure that each jurisdiction has their reasons for not requiring or posting this data, but the common rationale most likely includes a combination that such a requirement would be unpopular with the commercial industry and liability concerns with posting inaccurate or outdated coordinates. 


Many commercial fishers strongly believe that broadcasting their net locations to the general public over the internet will lead to increased vandalism on their nets and buoys.  Vandalism is a real concern for the industry and when acts of vandalism do occur, the fishers are not compensated for those losses.  As a result fishery representatives are against increasing public access to their nets.  Additionally, the state is resistant to unnecessary regulatory action that could be implicated in loses due to vandalism. 


Another reason often cited by the state-licensed commercial fishers in their opposition is parity with Michigan’s Tribal Commercial Fishery.  The tribal fishery in Michigan is 3-4 times larger than the state-licensed fishery and net locations/online postings are not required of their fishery.  Current tribal commercial fishing regulations will remain in place until 2020 but will be negotiated in the coming years.  I have no doubt that requiring and posting net locations will be a topic discussed between the parties.  In the meantime, the state-licensed fishery believes very strongly that regulation above and beyond that of the tribes, places them at a competitive disadvantage with their direct competition.  This position has been successfully argued politically in the last decade against the DNR requiring and posting their net coordinates online.


One last issue is that trap nets are moved throughout the season and there are some liability concerns with the state posting an area free of nets and that in turn not being the case.  The error might occur due to delay in updating locations or simply from having the wrong coordinates.  I think that all jurisdictions regulating commercial fishing have grappled with this issue of liability.


While the DNR recognizes the concerns expressed in your email and agrees that technology is easing the obstacles to posting net locations online it is a more complicated issue than simply unilaterally implementing a regulatory requirement on the state-licensed commercial fishery.  There is no avoiding that such a requirement would be unpopular with the commercial fishery for reasons states above.  Currently, the DNR is successfully working with several fishers around the state to voluntarily receive and post net coordinates but so far has been unable to secure universal buy in throughout the fishery or at Muskegon specifically.


None of this precludes, charter boat associations or fishing clubs from gathering net location data on their own and posting those net locations to localized websites.  This type of collaboration by recreational fishers/boaters is encouraged and is currently employed at certain Lake Michigan ports.


Commercial net markings have been reviewed several times over the years and last updated in 2005.  At the time, additional buoys, staffs, and flags were added to the marking requirements for deep water trap nets.  The number of buoys/floats was increased to three and the number of 5-1/2 foot tall staff buoys increased to two (Figure 1).   Additional markings beyond these are required for any trap net set with less than 15ft of clearance above the top of the net.  Surface lines are required to be weighted in a manner that causes extra line to be submerged vertically below the buoys.  In 2005, a requirement was also added for radar reflectors on all trap nets capable of detection from any direction.  If you suspect that any commercial fishing net is improperly marked, please contact the Report All Poaching hotline (800-292-7800) and our officers will investigate.   



Figure 1. State-Licensed Deep Trap Net Markings (NOTE: Tribal nets are marked a little differently).


I know much of what I have provided in this email is not what you were looking to hear, but I hope that it did provide some additional information concerning the mandatory posting net locations online as well as markings on state-licensed trap nets.  Thanks again for your email.




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How much of that "vandalism" is from people running over or running gear into poorly marked nets?

We ran down the markers one time, on the Badger of all things.  Bounced them right down the side of the ship at 15 knots.

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NETS..... so confusing. I know of guys who have had their gear caught on these monsters and lost it all. CRAP.  

MEGA BITE: Good job with the request for info from the agencies. It is curiously helpful.  I think these nets are the reason that I will be fishing afternoon/evening forays, just to make sure I can plot/locate them with some sort of a GPS heading and avoid them. I will ofcourse locate them with GPS heading on my posts from the fishing trips.

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  • 2 months later...

This won't help much now that the season is nearly over. I just figured out that the app was back up and running. ?

I found a net south of Whitehall this summer from about 60'-100'. Don't recall the exact depth or coords now but was very poorly marked. Only a buoy at each end. And I have yet to see ANY buoy with radar reflectors as mentioned above. We need to use the regs to our advantage and make sure they are following them.

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If you fished Muskegon/Whiehall it might be worth creating a Facebook page or website forum to let people post up coordinates as they come across nets or find nets have been pulled or moved.  Got to try to  hold them accountable for legal markings if possible. If you had an administer to summarize changes, it would be great. Sure is nice we don't have them north of you anymore.

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