State-licensed commercial fishing up more than 5 percent in value from previous year

Lake whitefish remains the most popular species caught by commercial anglers.
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Press Release

April 28, 2015

Contact: Tom Goniea, 517-284-5825 or Ed Golder, 517-284-5815

State-licensed commercial fishing up more than 5 percent in value
from previous year

Commercial angler sorting lake whitefishThe Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently released data from its 2014 state-licensed commercial fishing season. Combined, the state-licensed commercial fishery caught nearly 3,414,000 pounds of fish with an estimated wholesale dockside value of more than $5.8 million prior to processing, marketing and retail sales. 

While the state’s total harvest was about 200,000 pounds less than in 2013, the fishery’s estimated gross dockside value was up $300,000 (more than 5 percent). The increase in the fishery’s value is almost exclusively attributed to a more-than-15-percent increase in the wholesale price of lake whitefish. This species’ value has gone up more than 50 percent in the past two years. 

“Lake whitefish is by far the most important commercial fish species in the Great Lakes, and a delicious option many consumers will find at their favorite local Michigan restaurant or retailer,” said Tom Goniea, DNR commercial fisheries biologist. “The price of whitefish has been on the rise since 2010, but the increase in demand has accelerated in the past couple of years.”

Lake whitefish accounted for more than 67 percent of the state-licensed harvest by pounds and 84 percent of the gross value during the last decade. 

Participation in the fishery in 2014 remained constant from the previous year. Of the 51 state licenses issued, 31 were actively fished by 20 separate businesses. Eleven of these businesses fished in Lake Huron, five in Lake Michigan, three in Lake Superior and one in Lake Erie. Together, these businesses added an estimated $25 million to the state’s economy and approximately 300 fishing and fishing-related jobs. 

A full breakdown of the harvest and dockside value of the 2014 state-licensed commercial fishery, including details for each individual lake is available online. 

Also available are an in-depth description of Michigan’s commercial fishery, photos of the fishers in action and maps of the Great Lakes with recent commercial fishing activity, as well as links to recipes and locations where Michigan fish can be purchased.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to