It’s no secret that fishing is a large industry that draws thousands of people to the Door peninsula every year. There is one component to this fishery that is found nowhere else in the world: ice fishing for whitefish.
It first started about 15 years ago on the bay of Green Bay. Since then, the fishery has drawn hundreds of thousands of people from across the Midwest and the country to experience what it has to offer. I have witnessed the interest in this fishery grow exponentially every year.
There are numerous businesses that, prior to the “whitefish boom,” would not open their doors during the winter months. This fishery has provided new incentives for hotels, restaurants and other small businesses to keep their doors open during a slower time of year.
The historic allowable commercial catch on Green Bay was 300,000 pounds. Through an emergency rule that passed last year, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) increased the allowable catch to 561,000 pounds. The new proposal calls to increase the total allowable commercial harvest in Green Bay to more than 800,000 pounds. That’s more than doubling the allowable catch in under 24 months.
The commercial harvest does sustain jobs and provides fresh fish to businesses. However, the sportfishing dollars travel further through the local economy and help sustain the community. UW-Whitewater, in a 2017 study, concluded that sportfishery on Green Bay has a $264 million impact and generates $14.6 million in local taxes.
My great-grandfathers were both commercial fishermen, so I understand the livelihood that is associated with that type of work. I am disappointed that the Wisconsin DNR is pushing forward with this additional increase before seeing how the previous increase has affected this fishery.
Capt. JJ Malvitz
Owner, JJ’s Guide Service
Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin