Recreation Factsheets – Suggestions?

Two DRAFT factsheets were passed out at the October 1 project meeting, which profile the current charter fishing and sport fishing industry in Michigan. 

 We welcome your suggestions about these and future factsheets. 

We’d like to develop similar factsheets about different types of recreation and travel – bird watching, snorkeling/diving,  Native American themed tours etc..  The goal is to provide useful information that help people decide if it’s a good option for the Thumb, and if so, best support marketing and development of the industry.

NOTE:  Both of these are still in draft form and will be reviewed before being released publicly.  Please don’t distribute.

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How has car traffic changed in the Thumb?

The boxes show the percent change in traffic from 2000 to 20008.  Traffic is down at all locations in the Thumb.  At the stakeholder meeting we discussed possible explanations.  Do you have other explanations?

Parks supervisor is not surprised by downward trends between Port Austin and Caseville.  He has seen consistent drops in the number of visitors to parks – Sleeper and Port Crescent.

It’d be interesting to see how traffic has changed over time.  Need to see % decline over time.

Could be decrease in real estate market.  Lots of second homes in the areas with the biggest decrease in traffic.  Many homes are on the market. 

People are not traveling to their vacation homes as often, or if they do, they make it a cheaper trip and travel around Thumb less.

Phragmites & muck are issues. DEQ- designated beaches “unsafe” and closed beaches.

No major road projects that might have influenced traffic trends.  In general, road projects in the Thumb are small, 2 -3 days for minor resurfacing, with never more than a 10 minute delay.  Thumb doesn’t have major freeways.

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Could we market the Thumb to visitors from Canada?

Christine worked on a study where they asked travelers at welcome centers where they were traveling to.  Some at the Port Huron border crossing were headed to the Thumb.  Could this represent an area of growth?  Additional comments from stakeholders are below.  What other ideas do you have?

Thumb has some of the most gorgeous beaches anywhere – we need better marketing.  Outside world doesn’t have a positive image of Michigan, given all the negative news.

 Need community cooperation. Fifedoms abound.  Hesitation to get too commercial.  “We don’t want to be like Lexington”.   Need more partnerships in the counties (region).  People ask, what’s in it for me?

MDOT has a list of 129 historical and natural attractions along M-25.

There no big destination in the Thumb.  Could the Minden Bogs be developed into a national park?

 Thumb has never promoted in tourism.  For example, other areas like Traverse City have a pillow tax to support marketing.

Better to promote tourism from tourism $$.

Waterfront aquarium proposed for Port Huron.  Letters of support from other communities may help.  Freshwater aquarium in Duluth has been really successful.

Pure MI branded Thumb area as Blue Water Area. Since doing so, Discover the Blue website has moved up to top 3 websites viewed in state.

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Time anglers spent fishing on Lake Huron

Overall fishing activity on Lake Huron has declined dramatically over the last five years.  At our recent projet meeting, a number of explanations were discussed:  Loss of Chinook salmon, decline of yellow perch, rising gas prices, economic woes, or general interest in fishing among younger generations.  Below are a few specific comments from participants.  Please offer your own ideas and explanations.

Consider comparing lakes to see if trends are similar, if fishing is down everywhere, Chinook may not be the only cause of decline.

Knowing the demographics of sport & charter fishermen could be very important to marketing.  It’d be helpful to know the number of boat slips, marina characteristics, and changes over time.

Sometimes when people are laid off they fish more.  Surveys show that many sport anglers are unemployed.  Shore fishing, pier fishing will attract more unemployed people than boat fishing, which is more expensive. 

Need to have the fish there…people will fish. If no fish…doesn’t matter how well you market the experience, they won’t come if the fish are not there.  The collapse of Chinook and the unpredictability of Yellow Perch are to blame.

 Offhore and nearshore fishing are totally different. Offshore fishing involves more money and bigger boats (economic impact).  On shore fishery relies on yellow perch.   Lexington and Port Sanilac have good pier fishing.

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How easily are people catching fish?

Harvest Rate for Charter and Sport Fishing in Thumb Area Ports

This graph indicates that the fishing success rate has been relatively stable, especially for charterfishing – about 1 fish caught every 2 hours (50 fish per 100 hours). 

The noticeable drop in sport fishing early in the 90s is due to big changes in the number of yellow perch caught.  Yellow perch are small and anglers usually expect to catch a lot relatively quickly.

Many at our stakeholder meeting disagreed that fishing success has been relatively stable.  Fishing is far worse today!

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What type of fish are being caught by sport anglers?

Sport Fishing Harvest from Thumb Area Ports, Top 12 Species without Yellow Perch

This graphs shows the species of fish caught by sport anglers, not including charter boats.  The area of a single color indicates the size of the harvest.

Walleye has recovered dramatically and has energized fishing.  Participants asked if the total poundage of fish caught has stayed the same.  Walleye are smaller than the previously abundant Chinook, so the poundage of fish caught is probably lower these days.

Does this graph match your observations?  Ideas, thoughts, suggestions for the project?

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What types of fish are being caught by charter boats?

Fishing Harvest from Charter Boats – All US Waters of Lake Huron

Chinook populations have dropped dramatically, due to a whole series of food web changes.  The drop in Lake Trout harvest probably reflects a decrease in charter fishing overall.  Lake Trout are often caught along with Chinook, but they aren’t usually the main target species, at least traditionally.  Lake Trout populations are doing well, according to MDNRE.

Charter trips have traditionally focused on Chinook in the open waters.  Now, they could consider fishing for walleye close to shore and then moving into deeper waters and fishing for Lake Trout.  Could be an attractive and diverse trip.  Other ideas or observations?

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