February 5, 2016

Michigan legislature unanimously approves sucker season start change

Awaits Gov. Rick Snyder's signature


LANSING — Legislation to amend the starting date of sucker season was passed in the Michigan Senate Dec. 13, paving the way for sucker dipping to start earlier than before.

According to Ben Frederick, legislative aide to Rep. Joel Johnson (R-Clare), they are awaiting the signature of Gov. Rick Snyder, which should come “at any time.” The bill passed the Senate unanimously in a 38-0 vote after a unanimous yes vote in the House Dec. 5, 106-0.

“A meeting is to occur on Jan. 8 between Omer officials and the Department of Natural Resources to receive input on a new, earlier start sometime after the walleye season closes on March 15,” Frederick said. “The season should be announced very soon afterward in January.”

Under the new legislation, the DNR will set the start date each year based on the projected weather conditions to best coincide with the annual sucker run.

Previously the dipping season started April 1, but due to the ice clearing in the Rifle River before that time — causing the sucker run to occur in March — by the time nets were allowed most of the fish had already moved on. For communities such as Omer where sucker dipping brings in enthusiasts and visitors, the start date has been problematic for years.

During a hearing before the Natural Resources Committee Nov. 27, local angler Mike McLavy, Omer Mayor Alice Sproule and Councilman Larry Daly argued for the change, pointing out the economic benefit to the city and how the sucker run has occurred before the season start date in eight of the past 10 years.

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