Salted with Sharks

Sandbagging the Bay

In Breaking, On and off the Apron, Open Season, Uncategorized on September 17, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Since the word began to get out last Thursday about the potential salmon spawn crisis, a number of ideas have emerged to deal with the problem.

The DNR has already been inundated with phone calls from concerned fishermen and business owners. As the Alert reported Friday, Fisheries Management is issuing a directive to implement a partial fishing ban on the bay, beginning at the bridge and covering the main channel through the east end of the bay, where the salmon are struggling to make their way in very low water. The Alert has not been able to confirm the exact perimeter of the ban area, but fishing is not and will not be banned up in the actual river. Because it takes 21 days for the DNR’s order to take effect (in other words, for them to issue tickets), the office is asking fishermen to voluntarily abstain from fishing in this compromised area.

In the meantime, Adrian Poulisse and Dennis Holcombe, both members of local planning commissions, have spearheaded a plan to recruit volunteers to sandbag in the bay, with the idea of raising the water level in the main channel of the salmon run. Poulisse said by phone today that he was waiting for the DNR’s permission and for DNR personnel to become available to supervise this effort. He asks that citizen call the DNR and express their concern so that an officer will come to the scene and the sandbagging can begin. He would also like volunteers to collect feed bags or other nontoxic material out of which sandbags can be fashioned. If you are interested in participating, you can call Poulisse at 231-835-0738.

Another idea, dredging a channel, would require an Army Corps of Engineers permit. Poulisse said he had spoken with an Army Corps officer in Detroit and with Josh Mills, Frankfort City Superintendent, about speeding up the permit process, which would normally take weeks.

Dredging is expensive, potentially very disruptive to the ecosystem, and might not work for long, if at all. As the Alert reported Friday, the DNR’s Mark Tonello does not consider dredging to be an option.

Kyle Gilbert of Big Bob’s Up North Outfitters heartily agrees with the DNR’s decision to institute a partial ban. “The problem is there’s just not enough water. Now that the water has dropped so low, everything has kind of evened out and there’s no real channel anymore,” Gilbert said by phone this morning. “That’s great that they’re banning fishing in that area. That’s excellent. If these salmon don’t get up the river, it’s going to hurt our population of fish in the near future. If the problem continues to happen, if something’s not done to let the fish get up the river, we’ll really feel it. The fish are already half dead, they’re easy prey. They won’t lay their eggs until the get up into the river. If they don’t do that, we’re looking at a drop in fishing. You can’t tell a fisherman to not fish until the ban goes into effect, but I will definitely inform people of what’s going on. If a guy is too lazy to walk ten minutes up the river to fish and instead goes and stands in ankle deep water and grabs them, to me that’s not fishing.”

Meanwhile, on the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, a citizen has taken matters into his own hands.

Lone Sandbagger captured midday on September 17. Photo by Chip Marks.

Photographer Chip Marks said he saw this gentleman working on his project last night (September 16) and he spoke with him this afternoon.

Jim Stafford of Rustic Resorts is out in the bay at post time laying out sandbags. According to Chip Marks, what he’s doing is working. “I saw a couple of the biggest salmon I’ve ever seen in my life, real monsters, and I watched them make it through where he’s been working. If you come out here, it’s obvious what to do—block off the smaller shallower channels. And that’s what he’s doing.”

According to Marks, Stafford said, “I’ll probably go to jail for this, but it has to be done. I’m going to keep rolling.

“Some fishermen from Ohio were fishing off the bridge and complaining that the fishing’s not as good as it was last year. I told them I’ve got shovels and they should come out and help. I don’t understand this. There’s a dredge sitting right over there on the Elberta side. This should have been done last year. Everybody knew this was going to be a problem.”

“What he’s doing is working,” said Marks. “They’re making it. If 20 more people came out with shovels it would really make a difference.”

Lon Busch of Houghton Lake, one of the instigators of the save-the-salmon-run effort, said by phone today that he thinks the lone sandbagger has the right idea. “Something should have been done five years ago—10 years ago. We’ve had a sand issue in the river for more than one summer, I can tell you that. If locals had been paying attention earlier this year the ban order would be in effect now. We were out on Friday in one of the most beautiful holes in the river and there was nothing in there,” Busch said.


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Find IPR’s report on the low-water salmon crisis here

Facebook page on the crisis, created by Adrian Poulisse

DNR’s press release on the matter, issued September 14

More photos on the Elberta Alert Facebook page

  1. Ah, yes…let the craziness intensify! Good to hear the Bait shops are supporting the DNR

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