Gill nets (Great Lakes) - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 8 Old 03-06-2012 Thread Starter
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Gill nets (Great Lakes)

After sailing one summer on Lake Michigan (out of Milwaukee) and spending way too much time avoiding gill nets I was wondering if anyone one else has any thoughts on them? Though we never actually got entangled in them, I think that was more luck then skill. Approaching several harbors in rougher seas I was into a gill net area before I knew it. Did a mad about face to not get into trouble. Those "high flyers" are almost impossible to see during rough seas not to mention at night.
With only one summer on the lake, I was wondering if this is just "normal" and what other do to avoid the problem?


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post #2 of 8 Old 03-06-2012
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Re: Gill nets (Great Lakes)

I'm a day sailor out of Milwaukee, and would be interested in knowing where you have encountered nets. Looks like gill nets should have about 6' of clearence under the water to the top of the net. Then the only other hazard would be the bouys and line. Don't suppose that is actually the case, however.
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post #3 of 8 Old 03-06-2012
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Re: Gill nets (Great Lakes)

I sail out of Muskegon, in a Catalina 309 with a draft of 4'4". I've sailed here for decades, and can't tell you how many times I've found myself in the middle of the nets. Seems like by the time you see one marker, there're two of them behind you. Worrisome.

I have never been fouled by a net.
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post #4 of 8 Old 03-06-2012
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Re: Gill nets (Great Lakes)

If you are seeing multiple markers they are likely trap nets. Not sure if gill nets are even allowed any more. On lower Lake Huron there are lots of them but typically they are deep enough to not be a problem.

I think that early in the year they tend to set them shallower when the water is colder but I have sailed over them many many times with no issues. Well except hitting a float when not paying attention or at night.

On a sailboat even if you tangled a line I would think it would be no big deal. Motoring or with a power boat it could be worse of course.
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post #5 of 8 Old 03-06-2012
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Re: Gill nets (Great Lakes)

There are several different types of gill nets used in the U.S., the length, configuration, mesh size, type of material, etc... all vary in different jurisdictions. You can probably find out what type of gill nets are used in your area by contacting the local Depart of Game & Fish. One poster said he had never been entangled in a gill net. The most logical reason may be that gill nets in your area are "anchored gill nets", which are anchored to the bottom and the net is suspended beneath floats attached along the top of the net. Usually, each end of the net is marked with a high-flyer, and in larger bodies of water, the flyer usually has a radar reflector on the top so the netter can find his equipment under marginal weather conditions or at night.

Other forms of gill nets include: drift nets, stake gill nets and floating gill nets. Depending upon the jurisdiction, the nets can be made of soft nylon or monofilament, and some are made with multiple strands of monofilament twisted together. While both types of netting can be deadly on packing glands and readily foul a prop, the mono net tends to do the most damage.

Hope this helps,

Gary
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post #6 of 8 Old 03-06-2012
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Re: Gill nets (Great Lakes)

Both gill nets and trap nets are legal for commercial use on the Great Lakes and are favored by those who target whitefish. However, both are almost always set so the nets themselves are well below the surface. Trap nets by definition are set directly on the bottom. Gill nets can be floating, suspended, or on the bottom, but most fishermen I'm aware of set them down in the water column on the Great Lakes. As such, the only real entanglement danger is from the buoy lines, which are obviously marked.

I've literally sailed directly over hundreds of these nets in Lake Michigan and have even hit multiple net buoys without a problem. In my experience, most of the buoys are fairly small and become easily hidden if there is any swell. Even if you do run over a buoy line, your keel will likely force it aside so it escapes entanglement on your prop or rudder. I'd be more concerned if I were one of the twin-screw powerboaters blowing through the fishing areas at high speed.

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post #7 of 8 Old 03-07-2012 Thread Starter
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Re: Gill nets (Great Lakes)

Barquito,
Sheboygan, Manitowac had some/ I think there were some at Port Washington too. Also ran into several on the way down from Milwaukee to Waukegan last fall. I don't think the nets are permanent (they are moved around) and I am not sure they are "gill nets" but they are nets. The explanations above help to explain why they don't seem to be too much of a problem but still the idea of getting one on tangled on my prop (Catalina 375) makes me keep a very sharp lookout for them. Saw lots on the Michigan side of the lake as well around Muskegeon.

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post #8 of 8 Old 03-07-2012
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Re: Gill nets (Great Lakes)

I think the larger problem is that we, the citizens of the United States, still allow this archaic, non-selective method of fishing to take place at all. In this high-tech world, where we can produce just about any species of seafood through aquaculture, we continue to allow a small, select group of individuals to systematically destroy wild stocks of finfish and shellfish, then look for ways to bring about the recovery of those same species. And, if those agencies whom are responsible for the stewardship of that decimated natural resource do manage to bring about its recovery, they frequently pound themselves on the back for doing so until their arms become sore. What lunacy!

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