Fish Farm? What Fish Farm?

Big Win for the River: Grayling Fish Farm Case settled, all commercial fish farming to cease by end of 2018


It’s official: the Grayling Fish Farm is no more. Harrietta Hills, the company operating the Grayling Fish Farm, has agreed to end its lease, to cease all operations at the Grayling Fish Hatchery by December 31, and to never again operate any fish farming operation in the Au Sable watershed.


This is a big win for Anglers of the Au Sable, and, more importantly, for the river. There is work to be done, but the threat is over, the pollution will stop.  It took more than a village.  It took everybody.  Everybody who gave, wrote letters, and engaged this issue.   It wasn’t as simple as handing over a check.  This required pressure from all sides.  At some point I think it became fairly obvious to Harrietta Hills that Anglers of the Au Sable doesn’t go away.   To all our members, to all the groups around the state of Michigan and beyond that gave, a sincere thank you – Joe Hemming, President, Anglers of the Au Sable.


The case settled for $160,000, far less than further court fighting would have cost us. This settlement saves the river from thousands of pounds of fish waste, and resultant algae blooms and decreased dissolved oxygen.  It reduces the risk of disease, escapement, and invasive species.  It protects the river.


There would have been no court cases, and no settlement, without the support of members and non-members alike. So many people gave, and some likely gave more than they really could afford.  The list of FFI, TU, and other groups, let alone individual donations, would fill ten years of The Riverwatch.   It does not happen without these donations of time and money, or the many thousands of letters written on behalf of the river.


Many people worked pro-bono on this case, including all Anglers board members.  But two board members in particular, Tom Baird (president emeritus) and Joe Hemming (current president, and co-council on this case), devoted a significant portion of their lives to seeing this through to this conclusion.  They built a strong case involving several key expert witnesses who demonstrated that this operation was a bad operation, and that the DEQ permit did not protect the river.


Anglers of the Au Sable has formed a non-profit entity, Grayling Hatchery, Inc, to operate the Grayling Fish Hatchery as a tourist attraction and historical landmark, as the 1995 deed between the state and the county intended.   We will provide additional detail in the near future.


There is a lot of work ahead, yes, and in due time we’ll get to that. But let’s savor this victory, because it’s a big one.  It would not have happened without this incredible, engaged membership. Every check, every letter, every shared idea led to this result.


On behalf of the Board, thank you.


Click the link below to read the official press release


Anglers reaches settlement on Grayling fish farm

MDEQ makes another wrong turn

Anglers will continue to fight polluting fish farm on the Au Sable River

The following statement can be attributed to Joe Hemming, president, Anglers of the Au Sable Board of Directors, regarding the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s approval of a permit to allow pollution from a fish farm into the pristine Au Sable River

Anglers of the Au Sable is disappointed by the decision of the Michigan DEQ to issue a permit allowing a fish farm to pollute the Au Sable River.

We are pleased that the DEQ recognizes that the fish farm poses a substantial threat given the increased risk of whirling disease in the river and as such is requiring the fish farm to monitor for that disease which has been disastrous to trout fisheries in other rivers.

But we will continue to appeal this permit. We are unhappy that the DEQ continues to ignore the fact that this fish farm will cause harm to the river including the holy waters. The Au Sable River is the economic backbone of Crawford County. To give a permit to allow this fish farm to operate and endanger the fishing economy, the tourism economy and the vacation home economy of the community is simply a bad decision.

Anglers of the Au Sable has already filed suit in Crawford County Circuit Court to stop this facility on other grounds, including the state’s refusal to uphold deed restrictions on the facility and violations of the Michigan Environmental Protection Act. We will continue to pursue those claims and expect to win.

For more information, visit

Anglers of the Au Sable is more than 1,000 men and women from across the nation, created to preserve, protect and enhance the Au Sable River System for future generations of fly fishers.


Anglers will continue fight against fish farm on Au Sable

Congratulations Audrey!

Every year Anglers of the Au Sable awards a scholarship to a deserving undergraduate student in MSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.  This year’s recipient is Audrey Baetz.  Audrey is from Northville and is a senior at MSU majoring in Fisheries and Wildlife with a concentration in Fisheries Biology and Management.  I had the pleasure of recently attending the Natural Resources Awards Banquet at which I presented Audrey with her scholarship. I got to spend some time with Audrey together with her proud parents.  Audrey this summer will be in a fisheries management internship in South Dakota.  Part of Audrey’s internship will involve an invasive species survey, management surveys, telemetry studies as well as use of aircraft to count fishing pressure.  Sounds like a great summer! Audrey does plan to become a Fisheries Biologist and be a role model for other young aspiring women hoping to enter the same field. Audrey has just started fly fishing and is looking forward at some point to get up to the Au Sable River and do some fishing. Congratulations Audrey and welcome to the world of fly fishing!



Senate Bills 652, 653, and 654


Those concerned about clean air, water and land may want to learn more about Senate Bills 652, 653 and 654, which are intended to limit science-based regulations proposed by state departments to address environmental matters.

SB 652, for instance, sets up an “environmental rules review committee,” appointed by the governor, putting virtually all power for overseeing rules in the hand of a committee dominated by business interests.  The committee would specifically include someone representing the solid waste industry, one representing a statewide manufacturing organization, one for small business, one for utilities, one for the oil and gas industry, one for farmers…and then one for a statewide environmental group, one for local governments, one for a land conservancy organization, one representing the public and one who is a medical professional.

Missing, of course, are angling organizations, those who hike and camp, and many others who utilize our natural resources as recreation (and therefore are vital to our tourism economy), not as direct sources of income.

The directors of key departments involved can appoint a “science advisor.” But that advisor cannot be a state employee.

SB 653 does virtually the same thing for key environmental quality permits, setting up a 15 member panel dominated by business interests. Permits included in this review would include soil erosion control, solid waste disposal construction and operation, septic waste haulers, wetland dredging and filling…the list is long and it’s pretty easy to see that the goal is to make it easier for people to get permits that now can be rejected if they hurt air, water or land.

SB 654 creates a nine person “environmental science advisory board” in the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget. This board “shall advise the governor on issues affecting the protection of the environment or management of natural resources,” but only when the governor asks for such advice.

I know Anglers’ members come from all walks of life, from at least two political parties, and have varying degrees of interest in these larger environmental matters. The board has not taken a position on these three bills, but many of the groups we have worked with over the years are very concerned. One of those is the Michigan League of Conservation voters. If you want to weigh in on this matter, you can do so easily at this site, which the League has developed.

These bills are now on the Senate floor, ready for action. I appreciate that there may be multiple views on this issue. And I know that the recent track record of state departments on key issues affecting the Au Sable is not very good – just look at the fish farm situation, where state officials have given a green light to a potential environmental disaster.

But I see very little chance that groups set up as required under the legislation would have overturned that permit. As someone who has watched our state move backwards when it comes to protecting our natural resources, I will be letting my lawmakers know I am opposed to the package as it now is written.

Tight lines,

Joe Hemming



Click here to contact your senator.