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Charter Fishing

Charter Boat Reporting Program

All charter boats used for fishing in state of Michigan waters are required to report their catch and effort. This reporting system provides valuable information for managing the fishery in Michigan and the Great Lakes. 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). Charter operators are identified from (1) a list of operators who submitted catch reports the previous year, (2) review of those 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 us they are now an active charter fishing operation.

Online Reporting System

Attention: Charter fishing businesses in Michigan will use a new online reporting system to record their charter fishing activity in accordance with Part 445 of Public Act 451 of 1994. Fishing activity on or after January 1, 2019 will be recorded using

Please email or call 231-330-2845 to acquire NEW account login information and assistance with entering fishing activity into the new system.

Online Reporting System

Michigan's Charter Industry

What data is collected?

The data collected includes 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, 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. Space is also provided on the report form for comments and observations. Completed data forms are returned to the Charlevoix Fisheries Research Station where they are logged, coded by port, and entered on computer.

How is the data used?

Three measures of fishing effort are summarized: 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. 

You can see the data from the past few years by viewing the annual reports below. Additional specific charter fishery data can be obtained by emailing

How to find a fishing charter

Charter fishing businesses are located throughout the state and offer a great way to experience Michigan's world-class fisheries. Charter businesses in Michigan help novice to experienced customers have memorable fishing experiences. Licensed charter captains make a full or half day of fishing easy and enjoyable as they provide the boat, all the equipment, and the knowledge necessary to pursue fish for that specific area.

Search online for charter businesses and regional charter fishing organizations which operate in the town or region that one wishes to fish; contact the area Chamber of Commerce or city tourism office; or visit the Michigan Charter Boat Association webpage.

The charter fishing industry provides Michigan with significant economic benefits. The number of active charter fishing boats changes each year as new operators are added and others depart the fishing industry. 

List of sport trolling license holders


Charter boat operators fishing for lake trout in Michigan waters are required to purchase a sport trolling license. It is not required for any other type of charter fishing activity. If you are planning to supply bait to your clients (for purchase or for free), you must have a license to do so.