Boat capsizes, captain blames net
Written by Ludington Daily News   
Wednesday, 08 June 2005 15:58

Fishing Tuesday afternoon on Lake Michigan turned into a frightening experience for Joe Frontiera, of Hart, and his brother, Sam Frontiera, of Ludington.


Both were fishing in a 17-foot fiberglass Crestliner boat that capsized at roughly 2:40 p.m., about a mile-and-a-half from shore, after getting caught in a net owned by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.

Aside from a few bruises and sores, neither was injured.

Joe Frontiera, a licensed captain who was fishing off the Ludington State Park bathhouse with Sam, was trolling back to shore that day when he noticed the flags marking the tribe?s fishing net. Knowing exactly what the flags were for, he said he made sure he kept at least a quarter of a mile away from the nearest net.

?I made sure I went way around it,? he said. ?Evidently, the nets are stretched out way past the markers.?

Frontiera said the boat?s downriggers got caught in he presumed to be the net, pulling the back of the boat down and causing water to flow onboard.

?The water was coming in good and we couldn?t get it to stop,? he said, adding that even the two pumps on board couldn?t stop the influx of water. ?There was nothing we could do.?

When the water reached the front of the boat, Frontiera said he knew they were going to go under, and immediately called the Coast Guard. Minutes later, the boat capsized, and the Frontiera brothers, who had put life jackets on when the water started to flood the boat, were forced into the 55-degree water.

Frontiera said that about four or five feet of the front of the boat was above water. He said Sam grabbed onto the bow, while he tried to grasp the bottom, although cold, slippery hands and crashing waves made it that difficult.

?I just kept sliding up and down and the waves kept pounding me, and knocking me back and forth,? he said.

The brothers were in the water for 25 minutes, according to Sam?s watch, but Frontiera said it felt more like 45 minutes.

Joe Marion of the Ludington Coast Guard Station, said the Coast Guard team ? Matt Herrmann, Seth Miller, Dave Duenow and Tommy Hissong ? arrived on the scene in the station?s 30-foot rigid-hull inflatable boat about 10 minutes after receiving the phone call around 2:40 p.m.

The boat was at 43?01.2N, 086? 32.4W and the brothers were floating in the water when the team arrived, according to Marion. The Coast Guard brought the boat near shore, and escorted the brothers to the Coast Guard station, where they called for a ride.

The Coast Guard was assisted by Mason County marine sheriff?s deputies.

Frontiera said the experience was kind of scary, but more than anything he?s angry at the fishing nets, which he said destroyed his boat and could have caused his and his brother?s death.

?I lost everything,? he said, adding that there were thousands of dollars worth of tackle on the boat and a slew of fishing equipment he?s collected over the years. ?And I have no way of replacing it.

?Those nets are a big hazard. It?s just wrong the way they are placed out there,? he said. ?I really think they have no right to put nets out there without proper markers.?

At press time, Glenn Zaring, public information director for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, said the tribal natural resources officer was investigating marking of the fishing nets. As of 11 a.m., he said, early indications are the net was properly marked but that it would be further looked into. He said he had not yet seen the report on the Frontiera incident but one of his officers was on the way to the Coast Guard station.

The boat is still in Lake Michigan, stuck on a sand bar about 30 feet from shore. Marion said it will be removed from the lake by a commercial salvage company.

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