Harbor Beach Research Fishery
In 2015, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has partnered with state-licensed commercial fisherman Dana Serafin out of Pinconning to explore new fishing grounds for lake whitefish in Lake Huron south of Harbor Beach and north of Port Sanilac. This website has been constructed to explain the reasoning behind this development and to help the public successfully navigate placement of commercial trap nets in an area that has not been fished in over three decades. Special care has been taken to consider and balance the needs of the recreational community when developing this research fishery while at the same time working towards stated DNR goals for yellow perch fishing and gear reductions Saginaw Bay. Additionally, if sustainable and profitable, a limited commercial fishery for whitefish in Southern Lake Huron will add to Michigan's natural resource based economy. The Lake Huron Citizens Advisory Committee, as well as representatives of the Michigan Charter Boat Association, were consulted over the winter/spring and their inputs were incorporated into the selection of the authorized fishing grounds and various other components of the permit. We hope you will find this web site helpful and informative during this initial period of research fishing.
Reasoning & Benefits
A Whitefish Research Fishery South of Harbor Beach - James Dexter, DNR Fisheries Division Chief
Large Mesh Trap Nets
The Harbor Beach fishing opportunity will be limited to 10 large mesh trapnets. Large mesh trapnets are the standard fishing gear for whitefish authorized within the state-licensed commercial fishery and 10 nets is the standard number of nets authorized per license. Large mesh trapnets are typically 1,500 feet long, 500 feet wide and 30-40 feet high. They are normally fished in water 80 to 150 feet deep.
Basic trap net anatomy consists of the following (also see trapnet diagram below):
- A 1,000-foot, 14-inch stretch mesh lead that directs fish into the holding structure of the net.
- Submerged netting that is supported by floats, frames and anchors.
- Wing nets that lead fish into a V-shaped heart and box-shaped pot. Wings are the widest part of the net and are usually around 500 feet across.
- A main holding enclosure consisting of the heart, tunnel and pot which is usually several hundred feet in length. Once in the pot, fish are held alive until the net is lifted and cleared.
Basic net marking consists of the following (also see trapnet diagram below):
- Trapnets have a marker buoy or float at the main anchor on the offshore or lakeward side of the net.
- The pot is marked with a double flag staff buoy that extends 5 1/2 feet above the water surface. The flags are orange in color.
- Orange floats will also be present marking the ends of each wing.
- On the inshore or shoreward side of the net, the lead anchor will be marked with a second single flagged staff buoy that extends 5 1/2 feet above the water surface.
Great Lake trapnets are up to 1,500 feet long (1,000 feet of "lead"), 500 feet wide, and 30-40 feet tall when set on the lake bottom land. Left to right in the above diagram, represents offshore/lakeward to inshore/shoreward when encountered on the water.
Actual single float being used at Harbor Beach.
Actual single flag staff buoy and float used at Harbor Beach.
Actual double flag staff used at Harbor Beach.
A typical double flagged staff buoy used to mark commercial nets on the Great Lakes. Two staff buoys and three additional floats are required markings on each trap net. All extra ropes and line are weighted and sunk so the only items on the water's surface are the marker buoys and floats.
Click to enlarge.
Above is the map of the authorized commercial fishing research grounds and current net locations. The fishing grounds include portions of grids 1614 and 1615 and all of grids 1714 and 1715.
The northern fishing ground boundary is latitude 43°48'N and the southern boundary is latitude 43°30'N. The eastern boundary is longitude 82°20'W. Remember that the maximum depth nets may be fished is 150 feet so commercial fishing nets will not be set all the way to the eastern boundary.
Table of Current Net Coordinates:
|Net||Latitude||Longitude||Date of Coordinates|
|Net #1||43.798617||-82.536067||June 1, 2017|
|Net #2||43.770033||-82.533083||June 1, 2017|
|Net #3||43.74595||-82.506683||June 1, 2017|
|Net #4||43.71705||-82.50235||June 1, 2017|
|Net #5||43.688883||-82.482717||June 1, 2017|
|Net #6||43.685017||-82.497917||June 1, 2017|
|Net #7||43.6582||-82.480217||June 1, 2017|
|Net #8||43.654917||-82.493583||June 1, 2017|
|Net #9||43.6329||-82.460567||June 1, 2017|
|Net #10||43.62885||-82.474783||June 1, 2017|
The above table contains the most up to date GPS coordinates of any commercial fishing trap nets set in the research grounds south of Harbor Beach. These are the latitude/longitude coordinates in decimal degree units for state-licensed commercial fishing trapnets in research fishing grounds south of Harbor Beach. These coordinates can be converted from degrees and decimal minutes to 'degrees minutes seconds' or to other units by visiting this convenient online tool. These nets are limited to state-licensed operations. This listing is intended to assist anglers fishing with downriggers and other gear to avoid trapnet entanglement. These coordinates are provided by the state-licensed commercial research fisher and shared here by the DNR.
IMPORTANT: There is some degree of error with all GPS equipment and thus these coordinates should be considered as approximate. These coordinates are not a substitute for due-diligence by all boaters and anglers to visually watch for net buoys and to avoid those locations. The Michigan DNR makes no warranty or guarantee to the accuracy of these net location coordinates and reminds users that other nets may exist for which GPS coordinates are not provided here. If there are no net locations on the above map or coordinates listed in the coordinates table, it most likely means that the commercial trap nets have not been set yet. Please remember that while the DNR will be updating the map and coordinates table as soon as possible, there may be a couple of days delay between a net being set or moved and its new position being added to this page. It is the recreational fisher's responsibility to know their surroundings and steer clear of legally set and marked commercial gear.
Video Clips of Harbor Beach Fishery
Trap nets are built to catch and keep fish alive until the net is lifted and the fish are removed. When the trap net is lifted and bailed, fish are scooped from the trap net and placed on the sorting table. There the fish are viewed and any undersized whitefish or other non-target species can be released alive. As you can clearly see in this clip the fish are very lively when they hit the sorting table and the sorting process takes very little time. The two random lifts in this clip were composed almost entirely of legal size whitefish that were kept for market.
Marketing whitefish is dependent on ensuring the freshest quality product. This requires getting the fish on ice as soon as possible and with minimal handling. Whitefish that die on ice, sell best and receive a top dollar at market. In this clip, bailing the trap net and sorting fish is continuing. From the sorting table, legal whitefish are placed directly in an ice bath while they are still alive. A metal shoot is utilized to slide the whitefish into large containers of ice water for storage and transport. Each container in the video can hold about 1,800 pounds of whitefish plus several hundred additional pounds of ice and water.
Throughout the fishing season, the DNR will ride along with the commercial vessel and collect data on the research fishery south of Harbor Beach. When the DNR is onboard, staff is counting and tracking fish that are being released along with collecting statistics on the legal whitefish that are harvested. On this particular day, 94.5% of the fish in the nets were legally harvestable whitefish. The other 5.5% was composed of whitefish less than 17 inches (the legal commercial size limit) as well as other species that were released. In this clip, the bailing of the trap net is continuing and several lake trout are released alive from the sorting table. Upon release, the lake trout quickly swim back to the lake bottom no worse for wear.