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Commercial Fishing

The state-licensed commercial fishery looks very different than it did 50 years ago. There was a time when Great Lakes commercial fishing was a huge industry with thousands of licenses employing tens of thousands of people. The modern commercial fishery has been consolidated and streamlined. Currently there are around 50 state issued commercial fishing licenses in Michigan spread out over all four of the Great Lakes and only a portion of them harvest fish each year. The others simply maintain their licenses out of a sense that the license alone may have value due to the limited-entry system. 

History of state-licensed Great Lakes commercial fishing

Location of Nets

If you are out fishing or boating on the Great Lakes, you may encounter commercial trap nets, gill nets and hook lines in most Michigan waters. All state-licensed or Native American commercial equipment are required to be marked with floats or staff/flag combinations. You should stay at least 250 feet away from buoys, since anchor lines may extend several hundred feet in any direction from the floats or flags and along the length of the gear.

Tampering with commercial fishing gear is illegal. Removal or destruction of marker buoys and flags or other disturbance of gear often results in the waste of a valuable resource, since the nets continue to catch fish. They also can create safety problems for others on the water.

Maps include: lake trout refuges, tribal commercial fishing zones, trap net locations and recent state-licensed commercial fishing areas.

Additional Information

Tribal Coordination Unit

The Tribal Coordination Unit (TCU) leads the coordination of activities between the State of Michigan and tribal entities with regards to fishery resources and the Treaties of 1836 and 1842.

Tribal Coordination Unit