Re-Allocating the Fishery

The rapid success of the salmon placed in Lake Michigan led to an equally sudden surge in sport fishing. By 1976 sport fishers were capturing nearly three million salmon or trout. State agencies quickly decided to advance the newly emerged sport fishing industry rather than attempt to revitalize commercial fishing. Sport Fishing in the Great Lakes The state's rationale was that sport fishing brought more money to the state's economy than did commercial fisheries. In testimony before the United States House of Representatives the head of Michigan's Department of Natural Resources estimated that each fish caught be a sports fisher brought about $80.00 to the state's economy whereas the same fish was worth only $1.25 per pound if captured commercially.

To protect the sports fishing industry from potential commercial fishing the state established a number of regulations designed to limit or eliminate commercial operations. Perch, walleye, salmon, and lake trout were put off limits to commercial fishers. Net fishing was banned in some areas, the number of available commercial fishing permits was lessened, and the state began to phase out the use of gill nets, which the state argued indiscriminately killed fish of all species.