Charter Boat Survey Program
The charter fishing industry provides Michigan with significant economic benefits. Economic impacts of charter fishing to coastal communities in Michigan included gross sales of at least $14.9 million and 343,845 labor hours in 2009 (O'Keefe and Miller 2011). Michigan's charter boat fishing industry increased from 250 operations in 1979 to nearly 900 in 1989. During the 1990s and through the early 2000s, the number of charter boats used for sport fishing excursions on Michigan's Great Lakes waters declined to approximately 500. The number of active charter fishing boats changes each year as new operators are added and others depart the fishing industry. In the 2012 fishing season, there were 570 boats operated by 525 businesses.
The Michigan Legislature passed Act 22, Public Acts of 1989 which was supported by the Michigan Charter Boat Association (MCBA), an industry representative, and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Public Act 451 (Part 445) of 1994 re-authorized the law, which requires reporting of sport catch and fishing effort by the charter fishing industry. The law requires that charter operators keep an up-to-date daily log of their fishing activity onboard their vessel at all times, and submit these records (monthly) to the DNR Charter Boat Survey program.
The objective of the catch reporting system is to obtain a continuous annual record of (1) charter fishing effort and (2) number, type, and location of fish caught by charter anglers. These data assist the DNR's Great Lakes fishery management efforts because they are used to track changes in fishing catch and catch rates over time. These changes in catch help DNR evaluate the status of fish stocks. Annual reports also provide a measure of the health and welfare of the charter industry.
Charter Survey Methods
The Michigan Charter Boat Daily Catch Report Form (PR8206) was developed in 1989 and revised in 2006 and 2010 by a committee made up of two members each from the MDNR and the MCBA. In March of each year, all known charter operators are mailed a packet of information which includes an instructional letter, an annual supply of catch report forms, mailing envelopes, and copies of Great Lakes grid maps (for use in identifying fishing location). An online reporting system was added in 2008 as an option for charter operators to use. Charter operators are identified from (1) a list of operators who submitted catch reports the previous year, (2) review of DNR Law Enforcement Division's list of individuals who applied for and received a certificate of inspection for a fishing vessel, and (3) review of the list of individuals who applied for and received a Sport Trolling License. It is up to new charter operators to inform Fisheries Division they are now an active charter fishing operation.
The report form requires the following information (paper forms or online version): a DNR assigned reporting identification number for each boat, lake fished, date fished, port or area of origin, grid where a majority of the fishing occurred on that excursion, hours fished (dock to dock), total number of anglers (resident + non-resident anglers), catch (number harvested and number released) of major species, fish specie(s) targeted, and number of sea lamprey seen attached to Chinook salmon and lake trout. Data regarding number of sea lamprey observed by charter operators are collected in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Sea Lamprey Control program. These data are used by the USFWS as an index of sea lamprey abundance. Space is also provided on the report form for comments and observations. Completed data forms returned to the Charlevoix Fisheries Research Station are logged, coded by port, and entered on computer.
Charter Survey Analyses and Results
Three measures of fishing effort are summarized from returned reports: angler hours, angler trips, and charter excursions. Angler hours are based upon total hours fished (dock to dock) by each angler. An angler trip is one completed fishing outing by one individual. A charter excursion is one completed boat trip. For example, if a charter operator took four anglers fishing for 6 hours, total fishing effort would be 24 angler hours, 4 angler trips, and 1 charter excursion. Charter data are also used to summarize the harvest, catch, harvest rate, and catch rate of fish listed on the form. Summaries of catch and effort for selected ports around the Great Lakes, totals for each lake, and annual reports are prepared each year. The information is available on this website for use by charter businesses, the MCBA, and other interested members of the public.