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“Everyone’s ecstatic”: Bay Port Fish Co., Michigan commercial fisheries celebrate DNR rule reversal

Published: Feb. 12, 2021 at 10:37 PM EST
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BAY PORT, Mich. (WJRT) (2/12/2021)--Big news for a major Michigan industry: commercial fishing.

Changes to the rulebook in January had fisheries warning the fresh catch may soon come from Canada. The DNR is now walking back those rules, requiring fishermen to cast their nets in water under 80 feet and suspending part of the whitefish season, according to a release seen by ABC12 News.

“Everyone’s ecstatic.”

Captain Tod and daughter Lakon Williams couldn’t believe the reaction on social media, which they said was almost instant.

“I think like 20-thousand people saw the posts within 24-hours,” Lakon related. “People were just responding ‘thank God.’”

Now that their historic business, Bay Port Fish Company, will survive to weather the next storm.

A reversal from the DNR, effectively lifting the depth and seasonal restrictions the Williams’ and other commercial fisheries argue had upended their ability to make a living, means it’s now back to business as usual.

“It’ll make life a lot easier for me and my employees,” Tod added. “It’s a definite positive for sure.”

“Bay Port’s been great to work with.”

Chris Roth, among those breathing a sigh of relief Friday. The co-owner of the Farm Restaurant described the delicate supply chain that keeps his doors open.

“It’s all of our livelihoods in kind of a trickle down,” he said.

The Port Austin restaurant enjoys a long-running relationship with the folks back in Bay Port. Whitefish has long been a menu staple there. The restaurant burns through upwards of 150 pounds a week when the tourists roll through.

“We probably would have eliminated it from the menu,” Roth explained. “They come from the city and they like having that fresh, local-caught fish.”

Moving forward, Lakon told ABC12 she would support a legislative fix to update the state’s decades-old fishing laws in the form of a compromise that would also keep them on the water.

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