On February 22, acting DNR Director Shannon Lott announced the appointment of Randy Claramunt as the new Chief of the Fisheries Division, one of Michigan’s most important natural resource positions.
He will fill the position vacated by long-term fisheries chief Jim Dexter who is retiring. Claramunt has been a long-term employee of Michigan’s Fisheries Division, starting as a research biologist in 2002, then taking over as the interim Charlevoix Fisheries Research Station manager before moving to the position of Lake Huron Basin Coordinator in 2016. He also worked as a biologist and acting director of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odowa Indians from 1998 to 2002. His experience certainly lends itself to working positively with Tribal fishers at a very important time.
Michigan faces more challenges than most states when it comes to fisheries management. Funding issues, coordination with surrounding states sharing the resource, commercial netting issues and the impending Consent Decree with Tribal Fishers are just a few major challenges.
Other issues relating to PFOS and PFAS contamination of fish in the Great Lakes continue to surface. The inland guide bill and the new opening of a previously closed season on a key walleye spawning area will require much study and possible intervention moving forward and cooperation from all stakeholders and the Natural Resource Commission, where Claramunt says he will be able to shine.
One of his goals will be to work to repair and enhance relationships between these stakeholders to implement positive solutions. The bottom line is there is so much all stakeholders have in common to maintain a healthy fishery. These challenges obviously are not all solely in his hands, as watching the rollout of the new proposed consent decree and noting the tribes are not on the same page makes a more complicated issue.
Claramunt is a home-grown Michigander growing up in Frankenmuth, fishing the Cass River and perch fishing on Saginaw Bay. His undergraduate education occurred at Michigan State University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Fisheries and Wildlife. He received his master’s in Aquatic Biology/Limnology from the University of Illinois. He is an avid deer hunter and loves to grouse hunt. He is an all-species angler and fishes in all areas of the state. One of the more interesting labors of love he practices is maple syrup production in the spring and cultivating morel mushrooms on his property where none grew in the past. Even when he is enjoying his hobbies, there is a lot of science involved.
In a recent conversation at the Ultimate Fishing Show, a DNR employee said, “Anytime Randy is in the room, it is clear that he is one of the best and brightest in the organization.” It is just what Michigan needs right now in the face of major challenges confronting our fisheries.
Randy is married to his wife Tracy and has three children. We wish him luck and calm waters.