FRANKFURT – Last May, Captain Eric Anderson wasn’t even sure he would get his boat out of storage.
A few months later, he concluded his busiest year yet with Anderson Fishing Charters – while helping a tourist from Frankfurt, Germany carry a 31.5-pound king salmon on a fishing trip in last august. Coincidentally or not, this was the biggest fish a person had caught on the charter he had ruled for over 24 years.
“I said ‘You just caught a great king in Frankfort, Michigan; and you return home to Frankfurt, Germany. It’s pretty neat, ”Anderson recalls.
Stories like this are no surprise that demand for fishing charters on Lake Michigan is on par with ocean ports, according to data from an online booking agency.
FishingBooker, an online booking site for charter fishing trips across the country, reported a 135% increase in bookings for Frankfort and Elberta from 2019 to 2020. This makes it the eighth fastest growing location in the country. United States and # 1 in Michigan.
For many captains of charter boats on Lake Betsie, this came as no surprise.
Migration trends in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic have seen many out-of-state nationals settle in the Grand Traverse area. On top of that, many have cited a tourism boom in Frankfurt over the past two summers, which has certainly manifested itself in parking and traffic in the city.
“Every time I was in port I would look at the beach and you were like ‘Holy Cow’ you can’t even see sand there are so many people around,” said Captain Dave James of Fish Hunter Charters. “Regarding the reservation, it was through the roof. During the summer and once I finally got in August, I mean my phone was ringing for charters five or six times a day – and I was already completely full even before July started.
The FishingBooker study ranked Frankfurt eighth on a list that included nine other coastal cities. These were markets in ocean regions like Port St. Joe, Florida; Port Isabel, Texas; Tybee Island, Georgia; and the beach in Chesapeake, Maryland.
James, who also owns an ice cream shop in downtown Frankfurt, said the city has a vibe that people say no longer exists.
“I really think Frankfurt is that small town feel that once someone sees it wants to come back,” James said.
Anderson agreed, adding that he will usually receive guests who come to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and call him to use a fishing trip as an aspect of the vacation.
He said when he started organizing charters, his clients were many who worked for auto companies in Southeast Michigan.
Now many of his clients come from all over the Midwest like St. Louis, Mo. and Ohio. Sightseeing trips usually start around July 4th.
“No. 1, Salmon and trout fishing, people know that all over the United States,” Anderson said. “No. 2 is the beauty of the scenery, I mean, when you take people out of Frankfurt and they look like these cliffs… people are just in awe of the shore.
Anderson said visiting the national park and booking fishing trips often go hand in hand. Visitors to the dunes also hit a record high last year.
That’s a windfall of about $ 1,100 to Frankfurt’s economy per charter trip, according to Anderson, who served as president of the Michigan Charter Boat Association from 2015 to 2019.
In the past, he has advocated for the captains of chartered boats in Lansing and organized random drug tests for the captains.
“I have a lot of people who have come for a charter, and when we finish cleaning the fish and get off the boat, they ask me ‘Where can we go to eat?’ “It all works,” Anderson said.
Anderson said his guests have stayed in hotels, asked for recommendations for a local restaurant and gone downtown shopping after completing a day on the water. With so many people dotted around Lake Betsie, most making around 60 to 70 trips in a summer, those numbers add up.
“What people don’t realize is that, especially in western Michigan, there isn’t a day of the year that you can’t go fishing somewhere,” Anderson said. “We take everything for granted because we’re so used to it. These people are from out of state where the biggest thing they’ve caught is maybe a 10 inch perch… you take them to the lakes of northern Michigan, you catch some of those bigger trout. and fish and their eyes are bigger than a silver dollar.
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