MNR adjusts park operations and bans fishing charters until April 13


For those who get excited and crave the outdoors, Michigan’s message Ministry of Natural Resources is simple: do it near you.

While state park trails, beaches, and boat launches remain open, MNR has closed campgrounds, halted snowmobile grooming operations, and ordered charter captains to shut down. fishing trips.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has encouraged residents to get out, walk and cycle, but state officials are not encouraging long trips.

“We encourage people to recreate themselves close to their homes,” MNR spokesperson Ed Golder said. “The same social distancing requirements in the Governor’s Order in Council apply when you recreate yourself. If you enter a crowded parking lot, find another place to go.

Like most industries, charter fishing business owners are suffering due to the governor’s stay-at-home order this week that closed non-essential businesses on March 23. While the snowmobile season has been cut short in the Upper Peninsula, fishermen on the Lower Peninsula are already in rivers and lakes due to the lack of ice this winter. This is good news for recreational anglers, but charter captains were informed this week that charter travel is not permitted. All charter and guiding fishing operations on boats, canoes and other vessels are expected to cease immediately and not resume until at least April 13, according to the DNR.

Early spring is the highlight of the rainbow trout race in the rivers of western Michigan. It’s also a busy time for fishing guides who take clients from all over the world to the Grand, Muskegon, Pere Marquette and Manistee rivers.

Ken Clark, owner of Fishmas Charters in Whitehall, answered the phone Friday while fishing the Detroit River. He’s decided to go solo fishing since he canceled his upcoming charters, and his teaching position at Ferris State University switched to online lessons.

Clark understands the reasoning behind the order. He said many charters attract people from across the state and country, and it’s hard to maintain good social distancing on a boat. It offers charters on 20 different lakes and rivers – a third of its charters are in April and May.

“I wish that didn’t happen or that it didn’t apply to charter captains, but it does and it does, so I guess we’re just a very small part of the situation. as a whole, ”he said.

Greg Knapp from Get Bit Guide service also took advantage of the sunny Friday weather to go fishing with his wife on the Grand River. He’s a year-round charter guide and typically books trips seven days a week at this time of year.

“I can kind of see both sides,” he said. “If it’s so contagious, it’s probably not a good idea for us to organize trips, but then again, we have to make a living.”

Knapp owns three boats, offering spring trips for smallmouth bass and smallmouth bass on the Muskegon and Grand Rivers and booking Lake Michigan salmon and trout charters in the summer.

“I hope it doesn’t last too long because this is the time of year when we make a good chunk of our money,” he said. “I guess you have to play it safe as well. … I hope they can take care of this deal and get us and everyone back to work and healthy.

Some charter captains run illegally or tell passengers to say they’re friends, Clark said. In a Facebook post, Michigan Boat rental association also informed the captains that they should stop operating on the water and that any law enforcement agency – including the DNR, state, and local law enforcement – has full authority to do so. comply with the provisions of the ordinance.


State parks, recreation areas, trails, and other state-managed land remain open, but all visitors must respect social distancing and stand at least 6 feet from another person.

The DNR can shut down state-run properties if parks are submerged or if people aren’t practicing effective social distancing, Golder said.

“Our first priority is to protect the health and safety of the public, so everything we do goes through this lens,” he said. “As soon as this emergency was declared, we closed our high traffic facilities such as the Outdoor Adventure Center in Detroit and the Visitor Reception and Service Centers.”

Reviews change daily. Golder advises people who have questions about what is allowed and what is not to visit the DNR website at and click on the COVID-19 link.

MNR has closed public access to many facilities and canceled all group events and programs until further notice. In addition, customer service centers, state park visitor centers, field offices and museums open to the public are closed. Some closures include the Michigan History Museum, the Outdoor Adventure Center, the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, and the Belle Isle Aquarium.

Some other closures and key announcements:

  • The DNR firing ranges are closed.
  • A recreation passport required to enter state parks and recreation areas has been suspended.
  • All Michigan state park campgrounds, state forest campgrounds, and campsites scattered across public lands are closed until at least April 13.
  • The mini-cabins, cabins, yurts, shelters and lodges are closed until May 15.
  • The launching ramps and parking lots on the boat access sites remain open.
  • State ports are closed until at least May 15.
  • All sanitary buildings and vaulted toilets are closed.
  • Playgrounds in state parks and recreation areas are closed until further notice.
  • ORV trails are currently open, but visitors must maintain social distancing. The ORV zone of Silver Lake State Park has been postponed to May 1.
  • Snowmobile trails are not maintained.

Midwestern snowmobilers head to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to ride, especially late in the season. Grooming operations stopped on March 23 because it is not considered an essential service, Golder said. The MNR leases for the snowmobile trails officially end on March 31, so people can still use the trails until then. Some trails through state forest lands remain open as long as the snow is passable or turns into ORV trails.


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