Profitt Report: Ride along with the largest commercial fishing operation in Michigan

Jerry Serafin and his crew head out to deeper waters on Lake Huron. They usually pack up and leave shore well before sunrise. Photo credit: Jennifer Profitt

It’s arguably Michigan’s most valuable natural resource: our Great Lakes. The fish that swim in those waters are both a favorite food and a valuable part of our economy and the people who commercially catch fish battle the elements for months to bring it to your table.

A major player in Michigan’s commercial fishing industry, Serafin Fisery, is located in Pinconning. Dana Serafin runs the business with his father, Jerry. Jerry tells us, he’s been doing this since he was a boy in the 1960s and Dana’s been on his deck since he was nine-years-old.

“Now it's a little bit harder, you gotta pay the bills! When you're nine, you don't care,” said Dana.

The Serafin family has a license for more than 80 fishing nets. They leave these trap nets in specific locations, 100-120 feet below the surface of Lake Huron.

Once they sort through the fish and throw back the fish they aren’t allowed to catch (such as walleye), they store them below deck in coolers where they’ll put the fish on ice.

“It goes to the guys who clean 'em and sell them to the restaurants,” Dana said.

They’re selling these fish to wholesalers who will then sell them to restaurants and stores. Serafin Fishery primarily sells to the west side of the state in cities like Charlevoix, Traverse City and Petoskey.

“He is the largest producer in the state of Michigan,” said Tom Goniea, senior fish biologist and commercial fish administrator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Goniea said most of Dana’s sales stay right here in Michigan.

“The last few years whitefish-wise has been in the 800,000 pound range and then when you throw in, he does catch some catfish and some yellow perch, when you throw those in, you're talking in an extra 100,000-120,000 pounds of fish,” Goniea said.

“It really is that legacy, connection to the community, most of these people were born and raised right in those areas where they fish,” Goniea said.

So next time you pick up a menu and read the whitefish special, you’ll know where it came from and how for these fishermen and their families, it’s not just dinner: it’s way of life.

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