In a heavy salmon run, poachers snag big fines
By Andy McGlashen • September 13, 2011
Salmon-hungry scofflaws are flocking to riverbanks in northwest Michigan.
As MRN reported last month, this year’s salmon run has been a whopper. “It’s two to three weeks early, and it’s a very heavy run,” said Lt. David Shaw, a Department of Natural Resources conservation officer whose district includes major salmon rivers like the Betsie, Manistee and Pere Marquette.
The migration of unscrupulous anglers lured by the big, tasty fish has also been above-average, keeping Shaw and his fellow officers busy.
“With the frenzy of a heavy run, we have a lot of illegal activity,” he said. “In this district, we’re having major activity in Mason, Lake, Manistee and Benzie counties.”
That includes “some real blatant snagging,” Shaw said. Snagging, or catching fish that don’t voluntarily take the hook in the mouth, is illegal in Michigan. Many of the poachers use bare, weighted treble hooks to snag the fish, which often congregate and are easily visible in clear streams.
Shaw said he issued a citation last week to a poacher carrying the carcasses of three large king salmon from his pickup truck to the Betsie River, having put fillets from the fish in a cooler.
“It’s pretty widespread,” Shaw said, “and it comes at a time when we have six vacancies in this district.”
Tight budgets have left at least two counties–Mason and Benzie–with only one conservation officer, he added.
Shaw noted that illegally caught salmon can get pretty pricey, with a fine of no less than $250 for the first offense, plus $10 per pound of illegal fish and up to 90 days in jail. Repeat offenders will pay at least $500 and will lose their fishing license for at least two years (though MRN has a hard time believing that losing a fishing license is a big concern for a poacher).
If you see someone snagging salmon on a Michigan river, you should contact the DNR’s Report All Poaching service.
And seriously, if you’re that crazy about salmon fillets, just go to Meijer. They’re like seven or eight bucks, with very little chance of jail time.