POINT DETOUR, Garden Peninsula - Approximately 10,000 feet of an abandoned gill net has been removed from Lake Michigan, east of the Garden Peninsula, following a lengthy joint law enforcement investigation.
The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Department of Law Enforcement and Michigan Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division first received information of the abandoned net in mid-August, when they heard several complaints from sport anglers of their fishing gear getting caught on what they believed was a net.
"Officers from both agencies made several attempts to locate it and eventually we obtained coordinates of what was suspected to be the net," said Lt. Terry Short from the DNR Commercial Fish Enforcement Unit.
Photo by Craig Woerpel
A Department of Natural Resources official examines dead fish caught in an abandoned gill net. The net was removed from waters off the Garden Peninsula on Oct. 18.
The net was eventually found approximately four miles east of Point Detour on the Garden Peninsula, according to a press release from the DNR. Law enforcement were able to lift and identify the net as abandoned during a joint patrol on Oct. 18, using two DNR patrol vessels, a 40-foot patrol vessel and a 37-foot patrol vessel with a net lifter.
The poundage of fish inside the net is unknown, said Short, since several fish fell out while lifting it from the water and a fair amount of fish were released alive.
An officer from Sault Tribe Law Enforcement took the net into custody. A subsequent follow-up investigation by the Sault Tribe Law Enforcement has led to the identification of those believed responsible for leaving the net unattended.
The identities of those involved have not been released.
The case is currently under review by the Sault Tribe prosecutor.
"This isn't anything new," said Short. "We've had situations in the past of nets being lost or abandoned throughout the U.P. Sometimes it's due to neglect and sometimes it's due to weather conditions that are out of control to the fishermen, but it does happen."
Short noted this is an isolated incident not indicative of all fishermen. He reminds people of the importance in not cutting nets or buoys off nets since they can lead to this type of issue.