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General Bulletins

Fishing Regulations Michigan Freshwater Fishing

Lead Alternatives

The DNR would like to remind anglers that lead can cause mortality when ingested by mammals and birds. There are nontoxic alternatives to lead such as tin, bismuth, steel and tungsten-nickel alloy for use in jigs, sinkers and other gear. These materials can be found at established sporting goods retailers and online.

Fishing Tournament

All bass fishing tournaments (as defined in Common Terms) held in 2016 and thereafter shall be registered online using the DNR’s Michigan Fishing Tournament Information System at the following website: Tournament directors shall verify all tournament participants and provide a unique registration receipt to all participating anglers. Tournament directors shall report tournament results to the DNR by December 31, annually.

Boat Registration

For information about boat registration, please see “The Handbook of Michigan Boating Laws & Responsibilities” available online at Boat registrations are handled through the Secretary of State.

Ice Shanties

A person placing a shanty on the ice for fishing shall permanently affix their name and address on ALL SIDES of the shanty in legible letters at least 2″ in height. The letters shall be readily visible and consist of material not soluble in water. The name and address must be on the shanty and may not be placed on a board or other material that is then attached to the shanty. Tents or other temporary shelters must be removed from the ice each day and do not require identification.

Persons placing a shanty on the waters of the Upper Peninsula shall remove the shanty by midnight of Mar. 31 each year. Persons placing a shanty on Michigan-Wisconsin boundary waters shall remove the shanty by midnight of Mar. 15 each year (see  Michigan-Wisconsin Boundary Water RegulationsMichigan-Wisconsin Boundary Water Regulations).

Persons placing a shanty on waters in the counties of Alcona, Alpena, Antrim, Arenac, Bay, Benzie, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Clare, Crawford, Emmet, Gladwin, Grand Traverse, Iosco, Isabella, Kalkaska, Lake, Leelanau, Manistee, Mason, Mecosta, Midland, Missaukee, Montmorency, Newaygo, Oceana, Ogemaw, Osceola, Oscoda, Otsego, Presque Isle, Roscommon, or Wexford shall remove the shanty by midnight of Mar. 15 each year. Persons placing a shanty upon the waters of the remaining portion of the Lower Peninsula shall remove the shanty by midnight on Mar. 1 each year. Shanties placed on L. St. Clair shall be removed before sunset on the first Sunday after Feb. 20 each year. In all areas, a shanty must be removed if ice conditions become unsafe, regardless of the date. After the above dates, a shanty must be removed at the end of each day’s fishing activity.

Parasites and Diseases of Fish

Occasionally anglers catch fish with black, pinhead-size spots which cause the fish to have a peppered appearance, or a fish may be caught which has white-to-yellow-colored grubs under the skin or in the flesh. Yellow perch taken from the shallower waters of the Great Lakes often contain red worms coiled within the body cavity. These conditions are caused by common fish parasites. Fish with these parasites are safe to eat because the parasites are killed by cooking. Black spot and yellow grub parasites are most common in bass, sunfish (all species) and northern pike, and red worm is specific to yellow perch. These parasites may be found in other species of fish as well.

It is not unusual for anglers to catch walleye with pink, whitish or yellowish wart-like growths on their bodies and fins. These markings are caused by fish viruses, the most common of which is called lymphocystis. This is primarily a skin disease, and the flesh is usually not affected. Lymphocystis is harmless to humans and affected fish are safe to eat. Skinning the fish usually removes all diseased tissue. If a legal-size fish is heavily affected and appears aesthetically unpleasing, it should be kept for disposal because a fish that is released will only spread more virus. Please note, if you keep a fish for disposal it is still part of your daily possession limit.

Northern pike from some waters occasionally are caught with various size and colors of external tumors which may be whitish, creamy, pink or red. In advanced stages, the tumors are ugly open sores tinged with red and often are referred to as red sore. These tumors are caused by a naturally occurring virus which is specific to northern pike and muskellunge. The disease is not known to be infectious to other animals or man; however, affected fish are not aesthetically pleasing and should not be eaten. Affected fish (of legal size) should be kept for disposal because a fish that is released may spread the infection to other fish. Please note, if you keep a fish for disposal it is still part of your daily possession limit.

Seasonal Fish Mortalities

Throughout the year, it is not uncommon to witness dead or dying fish in ponds and lakes across the state. Many incidents stem from natural causes such as winter kill, brought about by a depletion of oxygen supplies coincident with heavy snow and ice cover; stress (brought about by low oxygen levels); periods of unusually rapid temperature increase or natural stresses associated with spawning. The deaths may be viewed as nature’s way of reducing the fish population and selecting those fish which are most fit for survival. If you suspect a fish kill is caused by non-natural causes, please call your nearest DNR location (see  Customer Service Centers) or Michigan’s Pollution Emergency Alert System (800) 292-4706.