Thank you to all that wrote to the MDNR regarding the New Zealand Mudsnail issue. If you did you likely received the following email from them in response.
If you have already read Mr. Dexter’s email and would like to see Pres. Baird’s response please scroll down.
Thank you for your recent emails of concern regarding New Zealand mudsnails (NZMS) in the Au Sable River in relation to the Grayling Fish Hatchery. I have been asked to respond to your concerns on behalf of Director Creagh.
You are concerned that the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) response to the positive finding of NZMS in the Au Sable River has been inadequate. I want to address these concerns and assure you that everyone at the DNR recognizes the fact that the Au Sable River is a natural resources jewel. Our goal is to keep it as such.
There is misinformation circulating about this subject within your social network. The facility in question is the Grayling Fish Hatchery. The Harrietta Hills Fish Hatchery is situated on Slagle Creek which is located in Wexford County and is not even part of the Au Sable River watershed. In fact, Slagle Creek was surveyed by the Department of Environmental Quality for the presence of NZMS and none were found. While we work closely with our sister agencies in the Quality of Life (QOL) group, the DNR does not regulate agricultural activities. Statute defines commercial aquaculture as an agricultural pursuit which puts it under the regulatory authority of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. I do not point this out to deflect or divert criticism, but rather to point out that legal authority for the DNR to simply shut down the Grayling Hatchery does not exist nor does it exist for any private aquaculture facility regulated under the commercial aquaculture statute. Regardless of your thoughts about commercial aquaculture, I think everyone will agree that no one’s rights should be trampled as the DNR does the important work of managing our state’s natural resources.
As Fisheries Chief, I firmly stand by the assertion that, where NZMS are concerned, the stocking requirements imposed on the Grayling Hatchery are indeed appropriate and protective of the state’s resources. There are two primary means by which the stocking of hatchery reared fish can serve as a vector for moving NZMS to new areas. The first is that fish can ingest them and subsequently pass through the digestive system and eventually be released into a new environment. While it is true that ingested NZMS can pass through a trout’s digestive system alive, research and experience in western states’ fish hatcheries has shown that fish held off of feed for four days or more are much more likely to have eaten NZMS while foraging for food. The DNR has gone one step further and conservatively set the maximum purge (no-feed) period prior to loading fish for transport at only 36 hours. This is being done to ensure that there is low likelihood that trout will forage prior to being removed from the facility. The QOL agency staffs inspection of digestive tracts dissected from fish at the Grayling Hatchery indicates that there was no foraging activity going on with fish that had been off feed for nearly 24 hours. In fact, these fish still had stomachs that were very full of food pellets. No NZMS were found in any digestive tracts. This sampling event even sampled fish that had been off of feed for several days and these fish had obviously been foraging.
The second way that stocking can serve as a vector for NZMS is by using hauling water that is pumped without filtering from an infected water source. At first, stocking requirements imposed on the Grayling Hatchery required microfiltration of water from the Au Sable River. However, the operator of the Grayling Hatchery voluntarily took it a step further and is now using only well water for hauling fish, whether for stocking purposes or for market. The use of well water for hauling fish and limiting the no-feed period to no more than 36 hours reduce the likelihood of fish hauling as a vector to the minimum level possible.
Some have suggested that the DNR take actions that reduce the risk of NZMS in the Au Sable being moved to other waters to zero and that doing anything less is unacceptable. While there is no question that aquaculture can be a vector, the literature consistently lists anglers and other recreational activities as high risk vectors for NZMS. Any call for reducing the risk of spreading NZMS to zero would have to include limiting or even eliminating angling activity in positive waters. Please understand that DNR has no intention of taking this step. However, any call for drastic measures that does not acknowledge the role that anglers and other recreationalists can play in hastening the spread of NZMS rings hollow and disingenuous. It is the desire of all of the QOL agencies to continue to work with the commercial aquaculture industry and the recreational users of our world class waterways to do all we can to prevent the further spread of this and all aquatic invasive species.
To summarize, the state has taken strong steps to prevent the movement of NZMS from the Grayling Fish Hatchery. Anglers also need to take important precautionary steps to further prevent the spread of NZMS and other invasive species every time they enter or leave fishing waters. NZMS will remain a high priority for the QOL agencies and we will continue to address all potential threats.
Thank you for your concern for the Au Sable River and the fish community that reside therein. The DNR looks forward to working together with the angling community to get the word out that all of us need to take steps to protect the waters we so deeply value.
AotA would like to clarify that we did not lead anyone astray via social media as the Director stated in his reply. We reported the truth as always. You responded. As always. And we thank you for that! We can’t get any of this done without your support. Please see below for our response to that letter.
November 14, 2016
James Dexter, Fisheries Chief
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
525 West Allegan
Lansing, MI 48933
Re: New Zealand Mudsnail Response – Au Sable River
Dear Chief Dexter:
I am writing in response to your recent email communication regarding New Zealand mudsnails in the Au Sable River. I write to offer several clarifications to the DNR and the other quality of life agencies. The Anglers of the Au Sable will go the extra mile to educate anglers and others about invasive species, wader washing and the importance of other measures. But in this case, we believe that the QOL group’s handling if the Grayling fish farm, especially the snail issue, has been woefully inadequate.
You used the term “hollow and disingenuous” to describe our expressions of concern and our calls for a strong and speedy response to the discovery of NZMS just downstream from the fish farm. Respectfully, we submit that the most hollow and disingenuous statement in this entire affair is to continue to claim that the state is vigorously protecting the Au Sable River. To review: 1) the DNR made this entire project possible when it illegally waived its right to enforce statutory use restrictions on the hatchery and allowed an industrial fish farm, 2) the DEQ issued a pollution discharge permit allowing the river to be used as the farm’s private sewer, 3) the DNR has openly acknowledged that low-tech aquaculture facilities like the Grayling fish farm are a prime threat for the spread of NZMS, but 4) when notified of discovery of the NZMS in the river, refused to inspect the fish farm and instead blamed anglers as the probable cause of the infestation.
In early June, a scientist we retain discovered NZMS in the East Branch of the Au Sable. He determined that the snails were directly below the fish farm – and only below the fish farm – not upstream, and not further downstream. Anyone can see that a possible source of the infestation was the fish farm. This was reported to DNR and DEQ immediately.
Standard operating procedure in such cases is to do an immediate survey to assess the source and extent of the infestation, and to determine if emergency measures can be deployed. We asked that you inspect the fish farm. You said the owner wouldn’t let you! We asked that you have the Attorney General obtain a warrant. To our dismay, you refused to do so, saying you wanted to “work with” the owner to find a “mutually agreeable third party” to survey the fish farm. In the end, that never happened, either. Months went by. The snails spread upstream and further downstream from the fish farm. It is now probably impossible to determine if the fish farm was the source of the snails, and it is impossible to treat the river to eradicate them. Four months later there was an inspection and, no surprise, NZMS were found in the facility.
Regarding your eagerness to blame wading anglers for the snails, we note the snails were only found directly below the fish farm. There is very little public access there. Very few, if any, anglers fish there. Have you considered how infinitesimally small the probability is that any angler 1) came to the Au Sable from another watershed, 2) which was already infested with NZMS, 3) which were on the angler’s waders, and 4) chose this inaccessible and deserted stretch of the East Branch as their best fishing location?
Worst, after all your protestations of concern for the waters of our state, you have concocted a scheme where the fish farm will be allowed to transport potentially infected fish for stocking in other waters The NZMS is asexual. It only takes one snail, in one fish, to start a new population. You say this protocol creates a “low likelihood” that the farm trout will forage on snails before shipment. We have been made aware of studies that show even recently fed fish may forage and ingest snails, and that using fresh water for transport might not work. Thus, there is a “definite likelihood” that fish will be shipped after ingesting snails.
Anglers of the Au Sable has built wader wash stations and distributed them to local shops.We have sent educational material to our members and posted it on the Internet. In cooperation with MGFCTU, we worked with our communications firm and biologists to draft, print and post signs warning of the dangers. Similar handouts were placed in local stores, too. This was all done in less than a week. In the meantime, has the DNR contacted local businesses, organizations and governmental agencies to warn of the problem and enlist their participation in educating the public?
We will always vigilantly protect the Au Sable River system. That is the reason we exist. We prefer, as always, to do so in full partnership with the DNR and other state agencies. We will also call it like we see it, back up our conclusions with science, and unfortunately and too often, fight tooth and nail against state agency decisions and actions which put the river at risk. This is one of those times. The DNR and other state agencies simply didn’t do the job on this one. You permitted an ill-conceived project in the finest trout stream east of the Mississippi, and then you dawdled in the face of a real threat. You only entered the fish farm when the owner “invited” you to do so. What kind of vigilance is that? The state can claim that it will “do all it can” to preserve the Au Sable as a “natural resources jewel,” but its actions in this instance are to the contrary.
The Mud Snail, the State of Michigan, and the Au Sable Fish Farm…a timeline.
June 6, 2016. Dr. Mark Luttenton discovered mud snails directly below (and at that time ONLY directly below) the hatchery during a routine water quality inspection. AotA notifies DNR and DEQ immediately. AotA and TU groups post NZMS info signs at access points to educate anglers and boaters on how not to spread the snails.
DNR releases State of Michigan’s Status and Strategy for New Zealand Mudsnail Management WHICH STATES: “Managing potential pathways of introduction for the New Zealand mudsnail is essential in preventing dispersal into new waterways. Pathway specific management plans include close visual inspection and the treatment of fish hatcheries and aquaculture operations.” They did not inspect the hatchery.
July 29, 2016. Nearly two months later the DNR sent Anglers their first response essentially blaming anglers for the spread of the mud snails. Also noted in this response is the hatchery operator’s refusal of admittance to state agencies to do testing of the facility for NZMS.
In late August, DNR fisheries biologists write in a draft trout management plan: “Improperly operated fish hatcheries have the potential to harm coldwater streams and their aquatic communities in a number of ways….Stocking of hatchery fish can serve as a vector for aquatic invasive species such as the New Zealand mud snail, unless appropriate measures are taken to prevent their spread… Many of the hatchery threats identified above are exacerbated in poorly designed flow-through systems” (like the Grayling hatchery). Still no inspection. The plan in place to prevent spread to other waterways in the state via stocking is questionable and likely to fail according to experts.
Sept 6, 2016. AotA sends letter to Governor Snyder asking for Snyder to order state agencies to do the required testing at the hatchery.
Sept 14, 2016. Gongwer publishes article with this opening paragraph: “The Department of Natural Resources agrees that the Grayling Fish Hatchery could be a source of invasive snails and has been working with the owners to prevent further transport, officials said late Tuesday.”
Sept 28, 2016. DNR director Keith Creagh sent a letter to AotA stating: “We are making arrangements to inspect the hatchery. We are planning to have representatives of all three QOL agencies onsite to verify that appropriate measures are being implemented to reduce the risk of NZMS movement and to test for the presence of snails inside the hatchery.”
Oct. 4, 2016. DNR press release stating they have inspected the hatchery. See below:
I am writing to ask that you order state agencies to immediately investigate whether the Grayling Fish Hatchery, recently licensed as a fish farm by state agencies, is responsible for the introduction of an invasive species, the New Zealand Mud Snail, into the Au Sable River system.
Anglers of the Au Sable is a conservation and sporting group focused on preserving and enhancing the Au Sable River. We have long been a guardian of the Au Sable. We take very seriously our responsibility of protecting this world-renown fishery, and have worked with – and sometimes against – state agencies over the last 30 years to ensure that it will continue to be a special place in our state for those who enjoy nature, solitude, recreation – and fishing for its wild trout.
We are now engaged in litigation over use of the Grayling Fish Hatchery as a commercial fish farm under the management of Harriett Hills-Grayling. We are contesting the permit issued by the Department of Environmental Quality to allow it to operate as a flow through facility with minimal pollution abatement as it moves from 20,000 pounds of fish production annually to a possible 300,000 pounds. That legal battle is now before an administrative law judge, and will be moving to the director of the DEQ for a final decision later this year or early in 2017.
In the meantime, we have discovered that a new invasive species has been found in the river in recent months. A well-known aquatic biologist under retainer by Anglers first found the New Zealand Mud Snail directly downriver from the hatchery in the East Branch of Au Sable. The Department of Natural Resources agrees that this fast-spreading species has now been found in other locations.
Our experts advise that the hatchery may have been the source of the invasive New Zealand Mud Snail now in the river – and may spread the snail into other waters as the hatchery operator distributes fish around the state.
We have asked officials the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Natural Resources to inspect the hatchery and its fish. To date, they have told us they have no plans to do so. We find this completely baffling, and totally irresponsible. It’s as if they don’t want to know what is going on in this hatchery.
We believe the agencies are potentially creating a scenario that may threaten more of our state’s cold water resources due to the risk of spreading disease vectors throughout the state. Fish diseases are often first discovered in fish farms suggesting they may be the entry points for many diseases.
One of our major concerns is that the New Zealand mud snail may not be the only invasive species associated with this recent discovery. Other organisms commonly associated with the New Zealand mud snail may now be in the Au Sable River system.
The Harrietta Hills-Grayling fish factory has been getting special state treatment for some time. Permission to operate the factory was granted by the DNR despite statutory and deed restrictions limiting use of the property to public recreation and museum purposes. The DEQ issued a pollution discharge permit which falls far short of protecting the river from pollution, algae growth, escapement and disease. Your own Water Strategy has noted the negative impact of flow-through hatcheries on waterways, and indicated a strong preference for recirculating water systems. And we know you have expressed strong concerns about invasive species.
We ask you to immediately order the appropriate state agencies to take action to gain entry into the fish farm, test the fish, examine the facility, and determine if it is contaminated. If so, we recommend that the fish not be transported to other locations.
Thank you for any action you can take on this important issue. We know of your commitment to the state’s natural resources, and hope you will move forward to protect the Au Sable River, one of the crown jewels of Michigan.
Keith Creagh, Director, Department of Natural Resources
Jamie Clover Adams, Director, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
Heidi Grether, Director, Department of Environmental Quality
Jim Dexter, Chief, DNR Fisheries Division
James Averill, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development State Veterinarian
P.S. We would love to get you on the river for a chance to float the river and catch one of its many trout – and then to release it back into the water for others to enjoy. We are certain that a day on this outstanding waterway will help you understand why so many of us are so committed to its protection and enhancement. Just let me know!
“Anglers of the Au Sable contracted GVSU to conduct this study on the Mainstream and North Branch of the Au Sable during the Summer and Fall of 2014. 17 brook trout were tracked in an effort to better understand their use of habitat in the Au Sable system and to better inform ongoing habitat improvement projects. This study would not have been possible without the generous funding that Anglers of the Au Sable received from our partners in conservation: Mason Griffith Founders Chapter TU, Headwaters Chapter TU, Challenge Chapter TU, Michigan Fly Fishing Club, International Federation of Fly Fishers, and Patagonia Incorporated. Thank you all so much for your support!”
Dr. Mark Luttenton of Grand Valley St. University and a team of experts did some field work recently in response to the recent mud snail discovery below the Grayling Hatchery. Please read Mark’s report below. The report was sent to Anglers President, Tom Baird among others from MITU, TU Mason Griffith chapter, MDNR, and MDEQ.
A group of 6 (Terry L, Steve S, Jim W, Austin (works with Steve), Justin (works with me), and myself) surveyed four additional locations for mud snails on Sunday, they included: Gates Lodge, Burton’s Landing, Grayling Park, and just upstream of North Down River Road. Sites previously surveyed are: behind the hospital, the Main Branch below the East Branch confluence, the Main Branch above the East Branch confluence, between the I-75 bridge and Wilcox Bridge Rd., immediately below the hatchery, and halfway between the hospital site and the confluence with the Main Branch.
The Main Branch sample sites survey on Sunday were selected because they are popular access points for fishing and canoeing/kayaking. We spent approximately 40 minutes at each site and sampled the majority of habitat types at each location. This gave us approximately 240 minutes of effort at each site. We did not find mud snails in any of our collections on Sunday.
Thus far, we have only found mud snails immediately below the hatchery, behind the hospital, and halfway between the hospital site and the confluence with the Main Branch. The highest densities appear to be associated with the sites that are farthest upstream.
I have also received a note back from Joe Holumzki at USGS in Menlo Park, CA. Joe worked on mudsnails in NZ. Here is his response;
“Terry Short and I looked at the snails you sent. We think they’re Potamopyrgus antipodarum, the NZ mudsnail, smooth-shelled morph. The snails you sent are nearly morphologically identical to an invasive population I’ve sampled in Pilarcito Creek on the coast here in CA.”
New Zealand Mud Snails Documented In The Au Sable River
New Zealand Mud snails have been discovered in the East Branch of the Au Sable River, just downstream of the Harrietta Hills Trout Farm – Grayling. These invasive snails can move throughout a system and damage the fishery.
On June 6, 2016 a regional EPA lab confirmed that the snails discovered were indeed New Zealand Mud Snails. Representatives from Anglers of the Au Sable and Mason-Griffith Founders Chapter of TU will assist Dr. Mark Luttenton of Grand Valley State University, who first found the snails during routine sediment sampling, in immediately conducting additional sampling to determine if mud snails are found in any other locations of the upper Au Sable River system.
What should anglers do?
The section of river downstream of the fish farm to the confluence with the mainstem Au Sable is now confirmed infected. We encourage anglers and others to avoid fishing or wading in this section of river.
All anglers fishing anywhere in the Au Sable or nearby rivers, should take great care to prevent the spread of this invasive species.
Gear should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between uses.
Use a stiff brush to remove visible snails from wading shoes and waders, boats, anchors, ropes, and landing nets. Ensure that all mud and debris is removed. Take care to clean around gravel guards on waders.
Several chemicals have been found effective for killing these snails. One is full strength Formula 409 cleaner. Equipment should be soaked in this solution for a minimum of 10 minutes, then thoroughly rinsed with clean water and allowed to dry.
Snails can live for many days out of water so inspect wading boots inside and out thoroughly after cleaning.
It may also be time to reconsider using felt soles. They can pick up and hold more snails and are more difficult to clean and disinfect effectively.
If we all follow these simple precautions we may be able to help stop or at least slow the progression of this invasive species.
Mud snail identification
The New Zealand Mud snails are small, up to 1/8” in length (up to 50 can fit on the face of a dime). They range from light brown to black in color; have 5-6 whorls, of gradually increasing size from one end to the other, and are right-handed snails (meaning when held with the small tip upward, the opening should face you to your right side). They reproduce prolifically and can reproduce asexually meaning a single specimen can result in thousands of offspring.
If you think you have found a New Zealand Mud Snail contact:
Seth Herbst, DNR Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator email@example.com
Bill Keiper, DEQ Aquatic Invasive Species Biologist firstname.lastname@example.org
To veteran fishers of the Au Sable taking the 70 Degree Pledge has become a regular occurrence, which varies in necessity based on the summer heat.
The idea is a simple one: if the river water temperature is 70 degrees or more for an extended time then catch-and-release for trout is impractical. Salmonids, especially rainbow and brook trout, cannot handle the stress of being hooked, fought, and handled so the mortality rates skyrocket. More information of this dynamic, including supporting research, can be found at http://www.70degreepledge.org/ – an AOTA sanctioned website.
So each year as we approach those Dog Days, Anglers makes a point of reminded fishers about this important practice. If we want catch-and-release to remain a viable practice then we must do it properly. Taking the 70 Degree Pledge is part of that effort. So start checking these two websites through early September:
Taking care of a world-class trout fishery includes all matters of commitment from court cases to cleanups to simple common sense. Following the 70 Pledge and the suggestions from Catch-N-Release.Org are two cost effective methods for nurturing the fishery in the river we all love.
A number of dedicated river conservationists have gotten together to form the “Fish Farm Fight Flotilla” . This is your chance for you and a friend to enjoy a great day on the river, make some new friends, enjoy a great streamside meal (maybe even an adult beverage might show up) and help us in our fight. All this for $500!
Here’s how it works:
Read about each of our “guides” (bios are below), figure out which one you would like to float with, and give him a call. Because these guys are volunteers, we can’t ask them to do too many trips, so if you are interested, please make your reservations early so as to not be shut out. The two of you will arrange a date, and plan to meet at Gates Lodge. At the Lodge, you will be given a box of flies chosen for that day’s hatches, get a couple high quality cigars donated by Nolan’s Tobacconists in TC, and head for the River. Oh – and if you are planning on being in Livingston, MT this summer, Dan Drislane, a founding member of the Anglers, will take you out. No stopping at Gates for this one!
At the end of your trip you will be brought back to the Lodge.
We hope you will consider this unique opportunity to have a great day on the river and also help out the Anglers of the Au Sable.
John Dallas 248-705-0239
Hi! I’m John Dallas, an old Ford retiree. Have had a place on the North Branch for 25 years. Am an Anglers Board member, and Chair of Headwaters Land Conservancy.
My passions are my wife of 48 years, the River, fly fishing, shotgunning, gun dogs, duck hunting and decoy carving. I have a well-maintained Gary Willoughby riverboat.
I teach fly fishing at the TU adult and youth camps, as well as help out at Reeling and Healing – a get-together for women with cancer. I can’t guarantee that we will catch fish on your trip, but I can promise one of the best shore lunches ever.
Gary Neumann 989-348-9848
I live on the North Branch of the Au Sable near Lovells, MI. Currently I’m in my fourth career; I am the Supervisor of Lovells Township. Career one was as a USMC helicopter pilot from ’68 – ’90 and number two was a start up gift catalog operation for fly fishers that is now called The Rogue Angler. Number three was a 20 year stint as a computer war-gamer for Northrop Grumman Corp.
Because my father Art was an ardent fly fisher as well as a founding father of Trout Unlimited, I was introduced to fly fishing for trout at a very young age. So it has been my primary past time for nearly 65 years. I also enjoy hunting, volunteering as a board member of the North Branch Area Foundation plus easement monitoring for Headwaters Land Conservancy, and power walking.
I am the lucky owner of an Au Sable riverboat built by my dear friend Doug Nagel. Alternatively, a wading trip is always an option. If your schedule is somewhat flexible we may be able to hit one of the Au Sable’s famous mayfly hatches, like the Brown Drake or Michigan Caddis. Of course, there are no guarantees on the number or size of trout we may encounter, but an enjoyable time on the river is a sure bet!
Dave Tatman 270-349-2355
Hi, I’m Dave Tatman from Bowling Green, Kentucky. You might say what’s a good old boy from Kentucky doing offering a river boat trip on the AuSable? Well, I retired from GM about two years ago, and my last assignment was as the Plant Manager of the Corvette Plant here in Bowling Green where I was part of launching the all new Corvette Stingray.
But I’ve been fishing the AuSable for 25 years and still get up there for about two to three weeks every year. I’m a proud long time member of the OxBow Club on the South Branch and a life member of TU. Based on your choice, I have two drift boats. One is a classic Hyde Combination that provides a great float, chucking streamers on the big water or chasing steelies or salmon. My other boat is an AuSable River Boat that was lovingly built from scratch by myself and two other buddies. I still shake my head when I see her on the water, she’s so pretty. Besides fishing, I love upland bird hunting, so I’ve tromped many of the tag alder thickets and hardwood flats around Crawford County in search of grouse and woodcock.
I might present some challenges in scheduling since I live eleven hours away, but I’m game if you are. John has promised the best shore lunch ever on his boat. I’ll guarantee a good shore lunch, but I can talk Corvette or college football all day long, if you want!
Glen Eberly 989-348-3084
I’m Glen Eberly: old hockey player (played back when the puck was square) and retired sales and marketing exec. for a Fortune 500 auto supplier. My wife, Martha, of 53 years (a very delightful and most tolerant woman) and I spend most of our time at our cabin on Shupac Lake in Lovells with our little English Setter, Lucy, a fine bird dog. But, I can be frequently found plying the pristine waters of our magnificent Au Sable Watershed in my cedar plank Au Sable riverboat, a beautiful craft that was the Mason-Griffith TU raffle boat a few years back and lovingly built by Billy Lowes and decorated by his wife Cheryl.
Love at first splash! While living in Chicago, I was introduced to the Au Sable North Branch in 1971 by a good friend when he invited me to join him for a fishing weekend at his father-in-law’s cabin above Flashlight Bend. We were transferred to Detroit in 1977 and as soon as most of the boxes were unpacked at our new home in Bloomfield Hills we made a bee line to the Lovells area and found the wonderful trout stream I remembered.
We built our cabin in 1990 and have become very involved in the Lovells community. While Martha is a board member and secretary of HeadWaters Land Conservancy, I am a board member of the Lovells Township Historical Society, current chair of the Au Sable North Branch Area Foundation, member of the Anglers of the Au Sable Environment Committee, and a fly casting instructor at a TU school. I love fly fishing, tying flies, bird hunting and finding (and devouring) morels. Shore lunch steaks might even be topped with some of these delightful morsels.
I may not be able to point you to exactly where those 20 inch browns (Fred, Rupert and Otto) are lurking but I’ll float you over them and arm you with some of Rusty Gates’ favorite fly patterns while sharing historic stories of famous guides, lodges and Au Sable lore.
Ah, as an option and in an effort to be creative and make money for Anglers, we offer an evening cocktail cruise on Shupac Lake for 6 people on our 25 foot pontoon boat. We provide the wine, fine hors d’oeuvres and hopefully a special opportunity to witness a loon family frolic and feed the little ones almost up close and personal.
Terry Lyons 517-242-2052
Terry and his wife Gina are retired. They (along with their two setters) spend their time at their rustic cabin in Lovells, Perry, Michigan and Port Aransas, Texas. He is a Founding Director of the Anglers and has served as a leader of other flyfishing organizations. He is currently the Habitat Committee Chairman for the Anglers and serves on several DNR advisory committees.
Terry has fished the AuSable River system for over forty years. His favorite place to fish depends on the time of year. In addition to the AuSable, Terry and Gina also like to fish the mountain west and the saltwater flats of Texas. If it weren’t for his fall hunting addiction they would likely head south right after the white flies.
They are offering a trip for one or two anglers anywhere that is appropriate for a traditional wooden drift boat. This trip can be scheduled any time from May until September 15.
Bruce Pregler 586-381-8406
I’m a partner in the law firm of Facca, Richter & Pregler, P.C., where he specializes in construction, real estate and commercial litigation for the last 28 years. Bruce earned a BA from Michigan State University (1982) and a JD from Detroit College of Law (1986). He is a former law clerk to the Hon. Frederick Ziem – Oakland Circuit Court, past Chairman of the Board for the Construction Association of Michigan, and a current Board Member of the Carpenters Construction Industry Advancement Fund and the Construction Federal Credit Union.
Bruce grew up in a fishing family spending summers at his grandparent’s cabin in northern Minnesota pursuing bass and northerns. The family moved all over the country eventually ending up in Michigan. Bruce picked up fly fishing over the years and became so enamored with it that he looked for a place of his own on a trout stream. He was fortunate enough to come upon fly tier extraordinaire Chauncy Lively’s (former Anglers Board Member) cabin and purchased it. Bruce, his wife Debra and daughter Anna have been on the North Branch since 2000 enjoying the peace and tranquility of the river.
Bruce has been actively volunteering time to protect the Au Sable River and its watershed. He is past president of the Anglers, co-counsel in the Anglers lawsuit to halt oil and gas drilling by Savoy Energy within the Mason Tract, given speeches about the Mason Tract, Kolke Creek and fracking, and participates in fund raising activities for the Anglers. Bruce is also a former Board member of the Au Sable North Branch Area Association, past president of the Au Sable-Manistee Action Council, Current board member of the CAM Sporting Clay Committee and FFF Member. The annual river clean up organized by Rusty Gates and the Anglers has become a family tradition for Bruce, wife Debra and daughter Anna.
John Bebow 734-474-0166
I’m an avid angler, Anglers of the Au Sable board member, and writer whose chicken scratch about fly fishing has been published in The Drake Magazine, TU’s national Trout Magazine and regularly in the Riverwatch.
Bebow fly fishes all over Michigan for trout, steelhead and smallmouth bass and occasionally breaks away for fishing adventures in the western United States, the bayous of Louisiana, and Patagonia.
He’s the Sergeant-at-Arms-Length of Pirate’s Rest, a fly fishing camp owned by numerous characters on Big Creek not far from Kellogg’s Bridge. He loves to chase all hatches on all branches of the Au Sable and previously owned Flies & Lies Lodge on the Upper Manistee where he learned the daytime and nighttime secrets of the sister river. He also loves to chase smallmouth on the lower Au Sable. But, most of all, he enjoys chasing whopper trout with gurglers and mice in the middle of the night.
Bebow is glad to share any of these fishy pursuits while cooking dinner in the drifter and telling a variety of truths and lies with Anglers of the Au Sable donors.
John could be talked into any of the following after 7/15:
1) A full-day float with hot meal and beverages.
2) Full-day float with kitchen cooked meal and campfire at Pirate Camp.
3) A half-day float, meal, and nine holes of golf if a client wants to mix it up.
4) Or, for the particularly adventurous, an all-night float if someone wants to learn night fishing by boat and/or by foot.
Dan Drislane 248-207-9020
Like Glen Eberly, I am an old hockey player (but my pucks were round), so I am not offering to take you out on the ice. I grew up in upstate New York where my first home waters were the Battenkill and the Poestenkill. A career move brought me to Michigan in 1984, where I spent the next 20 years (despite a lot of work travel). During that time, in September 1986, Rusty Gates invited Ed McGlinn, myself and three others to meet in Mary’s Hungry Fisherman Dining Room at Gates and put together the first steps to forming the Anglers the following January. The rest is well known history and why you’re reading this today. In 2004, a long yearning to not be the top predator in my haunts obliged me to move to Paradise Valley, just south of Livingston, Montana. I’ve been here since, with my home looking up at Emigrant Peak and over the Yellowstone about a half mile as the ravens fly. I humbly offer a full-day float trip aboard my fairly new 16-foot low profile Clackacraft drift boat for two anglers who can come fully geared up (licenses, waders, rods, reels, some flies). You should plan on your own ground transportation to my home, either from a local airport (Bozeman or Billings) or if you’re huffing it from Michigan. Dates are flexible and as any experienced western angler knows, they need to be owing to weather, wind, water clarity and time of year. The river we’ll fish also must be flexible—we may want to fish the Yellowstone, but all of the aforementioned may dictate we get in the truck and head to the Missouri or the Madison. I offer a fully outfitted lunch with soft beverages. All other costs associated with the float (shuttles, gas, etc.) are paid for. I also offer two guest rooms in my home, each with their own full bath for the evening before and the evening of the float. If you would like to do your own thing, Chico Hot Springs Resort is just a 10-minute drive from my home. If we must or choose to travel and stay at another river, please plan on paying your own board and off-river meals. My offer is for any time in the June – September season, either in 2016 or 2017. Birdhunters who book a September float may just be able to tag along with my three French Brittanys the day after, schedule permitting, to look for Hungarian partridge and/or sharp-tailed grouse. Winners of this float should contact me as soon as convenient so we can plan and I can send a packing list and any other helpful info.
I’ve been enjoying fly fishing for trout ever since a friend of mine took me to opening day in 1968 on the North Branch. That led to buying a place on the main branch, working & guiding at the Fly Factory, & buying a river boat. Another benefit of flyfishing is meeting people that were well versed in birding, thus making me into a semi nerderbirder. I can’t guarantee you fish, but hopefully an enjoyable trip you will never forget. I’m retired and that makes me available for almost any time. I enjoy taking beginners, kids, spouses, and non fishing people along for the ride. One more thing, my nick name is Dunkin Dan, bring waders.
Robb Smith (989-233-1922)
Greetings, I’m a semi-retired electrical construction estimator, project designer and manager, and a proud graduate of the University of Michigan. In my spare time I am the acting Treasurer and immediate past Chairman of Michigan Trout Unlimited and have recently joined the board of Head Waters Land Conservancy.
Chrissy, my wife of 45 years, and I have a couple of rustic log cabins on the Big Creek north of Brown Cabin Road in Luzerne. We spend as much time as possible enjoying our little paradise, the creek and the continuous process of restoring old cabins.
Along with some great helpers, I built a Hankinson style wood drift boat and ply the big waters from McMasters to Alcona Pond. I’ve become a streamer junkie but still love to chase Hennies, Brown Drakes, Iso’s and Ephrons in those same waters. A great day on the river would consist of floating late afternoon, cooking a shore dinner, setting up for a hatch or spinner fall and most of all floating out under the stars. Or, if you would like we can pitch big streamers to the “big brown wolves” this fall. By the way, in the process we might catch some good trout and share some great conversation.
I’d love to help the Anglers beat the ominous threat of the Grayling fish farm and take you fishing on some the most beautiful waters anywhere. Let’s set a date!
Gates Family Memorial Match: Rusty and Julie’s children, Chris and Misty, have issued a $5,000 matching challenge toward the Anglers of the Au Sable’s fight against a fish farm permit that threatens the Au Sable River. We have matching funds on the table, and we need your help. Please notate on your check “Gates Memorial Match”…and let’s raise some money!
Click HERE to be re-directed to the donation page.