Click the link below to read Judge Mertz’s full decision.
Click HERE for the newsletter version of Judge Mertz’s decision.
The Grayling Fish Hatchery is an obsolete, 100 year old “flow through” facility on the East Branch of the Au Sable. It was last operated by Crawford County as a tourist attraction.
The hatchery was leased to Harrietta Hills-Grayling for 5 cents a year over 20 years.
The proposal is to operate an industrial scale fish farm and increase production from under 20,000 pounds of fish per year to 300,000 pounds per year.
The DEQ pollution discharge permit issued for the facility has: dangerously high standards for phosphorus and suspended solids (fish feces and waste feed); no standards for nitrogen, ammonia, biological oxygen demand or dissolved oxygen; inadequate monitoring requirements; and inadequate protocols for escapement or disease control. No performance bond is required.
The permit is supported by the Michigan Agriculture Department, Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan Aquaculture Association, and other agricultural interests.
The permit is opposed by many groups including Anglers of the Au Sable, Fly Fishers International, Michigan Trout Unlimited, many local chapters of TU, the Sierra Club, the Au Sable and North Branch property owners associations, and many local outdoor recreation and tourism businesses.
Our habitat committee, led by Terry Lyons, is always working to improve fishing on all stretches of the Au Sable. Terry gave a lengthy report at our last board meeting; here are some of the highlights:
If the majority are naturally spawned as believed stocking may be reduced or eliminated entirely.
River Watershed. The new “Upper AuSable Fisheries Work Group” discussed issues observed on the Upper North Branch, and will meet again later this summer.
We can’t thank Terry and his team enough for all the work they do to improve the river and the fishing. It’s hard labor, which takes a lot of time they could be using to spend with family – or casting. We always need more volunteers, and we guarantee you, you will learn something new every time you head out with this group. If you want to get involved, just let us know and we’ll hook you up with Terry.
Want to know what we think? Click the link below.
Click the image to view the award.
April 14, 2017
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the 2nd draft of the Management Plan for Inland Trout in Michigan. After submitting our comments to the first draft of this document we were confident that the second version would be an improvement. We provided comments that reflected the concerns of our membership and made recommendations intended to make the document acceptable to a majority of inland trout anglers.
Upon reading the first few pages of the draft plan we were encouraged that the authors had removed the wording regarding flies only regulations that we found most inappropriate. Unfortunately, as we proceeded through the document we discovered only superficial changes had been made throughout the rest of the plan and most of our recommendations were ignored. Under the heading of Gear Restricted Regulations, none of the statements backed by discredited studies or the use of cherry-picked data were corrected. Additionally the authors have added statements that reflect negatively on the use of Gear Restricted Regulations. The original draft included a statement correctly pointing out that Gear Restricted reaches were some of the most heavily used by anglers. In the second draft, this statement was removed, all that remained was a statement intended to present these regulations in a negative way. It is our expectation that the final version of this trout plan document will remove all reference to data that is not fully presented, documented or explained including method confidence level. If these actions are not taken we will continue to oppose the implementation of this document.
The remainder of our comments will list the sections of the draft with which we have concerns. We will also provide supporting documentation where appropriate for these proposed modifications to the document. Unlike the way this process was handled during the first comment period it would be most helpful if the authors would respond to this correspondence and share their reasons for not utilizing our suggestions. This will facilitate a discussion that will hopefully lead to a finished document that we can support.
lines 56-137: The Anglers of the AuSable support this section with the following
suggestions. This goal includes proposed specific actions. It is not clear who is
responsible for carrying out these actions. If responsibility is assigned it will
provide accountability and proper oversight of the implementation of these
lines 135-39: We agree that there are great demands placed upon the
Research Section staff, but there are also significant demands placed upon the
regional Management Biologists and staff as well. These biologists and staff
should also be provided adequate time and resources to do what is required of
lines 142-207: We support this section as written.
lines 210-251: We support this section with the following suggestion. Under
Issue 3, lines 227-8 the authors recommend working to install more wader wash
stations. We have been actively involved in the invasive species efforts of the
Fisheries Division and the DEQ. Since the discovery of New Zealand Mud
Snails in the AuSable River we have expressed our concerns to both agencies
regarding the use of the wader wash stations. There is currently no protocol for
controlling the spread of NZMS that is applicable with the wader wash stations.
With that in mind we are no longer maintaining the wader wash stations that we
have installed at fly shops on the AuSable river. The concern is that mud snails
could actually be spread by the improper use of the wader wash stations instead
of the intended result. We suggest that for now this statement be removed or
corrected to state that when a suitable protocol is developed the wader wash
stations will again be promoted.
lines 254-290: We support this section with the following changes.
line 263: The second sentence stating that Gear Restricted rules are
controversial is not required to promote the message of this issue. All
recommendations for new regulations or changes to existing regulations are
vetted through the Fisheries Division Management Team, the Trout Committee,
the CWRSC. There is also opportunity for public comment before the
regulations are proposed to the NRC for approval. We request that this statement
line 274: This issue begins speaking of the use of C&R regulations in
the off season to provide additional angling opportunity. The final sentence then
refers to using type 4 regulations which are not C&R. We suggest removing the
last sentence or re-writing the entire section to reflect the desired objective.
Issue 6, line 287: The sentence states that statewide regulations were last
reviewed in 2008-9. Coldwater regulations were reviewed in 2009-10 and
implemented in 2011. It was agreed at the time of the approval of the current
suite of regulations by the CWRSC that they would be left in place at least five
years. It is now time to consider this review.
lines 292-325: We support this section with the following comment. It is critical
that DNR personnel are also open to opinions that are different than theirs. It is
also possible for agency personnel to inject bias into their communications.
Biology of Trout,
lines 764-82: This section contains 16 lines of data that
repeat the same information. One study should be enough to demonstrate the
percentages of hooking mortality in trout. The Shetter and Allison data seems
representative and should suffice to document the data. The section on “actively
fished bait” is not germane to this discussion unless you are proposing it as a
regulation type. This information adds nothing to the document and serves to
reinforce the perception that the authors are promoting that method of angling.
lines 783-7: The document states that the use of barbless hooks have
been promoted to reduce hooking mortality, but Schill and Scarpella, (97)
review of many studies indicated that barbless hooks did not reduce hooking
mortality for fly-or lure caught trout. They also concluded there was no
biological reason for imposing hook restrictions on fly or lure anglers.
First, with hooking mortality percentages near zero for fly or lure caught fish how
much improvement in hooking mortality percentages could be expected to occur
by any changes to the type of terminal tackle used in a reach that requires the use
of artificial lures or flies? Changing regulations from those that allow the use of
bait to the Gear Restricted variety is the only proven method to reduce hooking
Secondly, most fly anglers today voluntarily use barbless hooks to facilitate
releasing fish. Requiring the use of barbless hooks in fly fishing only reaches will
not be a significant imposition on anyone. We believe that the use of single hooks
and barbless hooks on artificials only reaches merits some further study and is
a good issue for discussion for the CWRSC.
In conclusion, after reviewing Schill and Scarpella and other studies, Robert
Arlinghaus in his 2007 publication stated; ”nonetheless, the majority of the data
available support the notion that the use of barbless hooks is beneficial for
discards and can only benefit fish. Sub-lethal injuries physiological disturbances
(due to longer handling times) are more extensive with barbed hooks (Cooke et al
2001) and for those reasons barbless hooks can be an effective conservation and
management tool”. With this in mind the primary reason to use barbless hooks is
to minimize damage to fish that are released, often many times during their
lifetime. It is our position that this restriction should be considered for all
artificials or flies only regulation reaches that experience heavy fishing pressure.
Gear Restricted Regulations
The Draft Document states; Gear-Restricted (especially flies-only ) regulations on
these high-quality reaches are among the most contentious of Michigan’s trout
stream regulations for two primary reasons. First, field studies in Michigan have
not clearly demonstrated that these regulations produce the desired biological
effects, namely increased trout recruitment and catch (via reduced hooking
mortality) and increased density of sub-legal sized trout (Shetter and Alexander
1962; Latta, 1973). We have two comments on this paragraph.
First, a significant increase in fish populations due to reduced hooking mortality
is not likely in streams that have been overwhelmingly utilized by fly anglers who
have voluntarily released fish for many years. This is one of the concerns that
we as anglers have had with requirements of FO 213. Secondly, as demonstrated
above, with significant changes to angler behavior, how it is possible to believe
we can rely on studies that are 55 and 44 years old respectively to provide an
accurate biological assessment of these fisheries. The authors state that it is
difficult to demonstrate that Gear Restricted regulations have produced their
desired effect. If this is true it must also be true that it will be difficult to show
that these regulations are not providing their desired results. On line 632 of the
original draft of this document it is stated that “gear restricted streams currently
attract tremendous fishing pressure to the point that anglers are voicing concerns”.
With this in mind, there must be something drawing these crowds of anglers to
these special places again and again. It is curious that this statement disappeared
from the current draft of the plan. We will have to guess that it did not fit well
into the image of gear restricted reaches that the authors are trying to portray.
lines 1034-36: The reference to a study by Poppoff and Neuman was added to
the second draft. This information is not incorporated in the regulation suite that
was approved for 2011. It also was not discussed with the regulation committee
at that time. This may be a good subject for the CWRSC to discuss but it only
adds to confusion here. This statement should be clarified or removed from the
lines 1037-53: In summarizing his 1973 study on flies-only regulations in
Michigan and Wisconsin, Latta notes, “the most obvious change with imposition
flies-only regulation, was a dramatic decrease in fishing pressure. It appears that
at the present time the flies-only regulation is operating in a sociological manner
to create a limited entry fishery”. It appears that Latta had not observed the recent
“tremendous fishing pressure” that the author observed in the above paragraph.
(and removed the reference from this draft) As far as a limited entry fishery it
should be noted that both The International Federation of Fly Fishers and Trout
Unlimited and their affiliate chapters provide fly fishing instruction, often at no
charge, to anyone who wants to learn the sport. This training also provides
outreach to women and youth who might be uncomfortable in traditional settings.
The world has changed dramatically since 1973 and the world of fly fishing is no
exception. Observations around the country are contrary to those found in
Latta, including the statement from the previous draft of this document referenced
above. Michigan has conducted no research to this matter, but it is common
knowledge that the flies-only reaches of the AuSable, Manistee, and Pere-
Marquette rivers are among the very highest fished in the state, and are vital to the
economic support of the surrounding communities. Any reference to the Latta
study should be removed from the document unless peer reviewed current studies
are produced to corroborate his claims.
On page 23, line 1043: the authors list the percentage of anglers that fish with
particular methods as determined in the 2015 Inland Trout Angler Survey. Fly-
Fishing accounted for 48% of the respondents. Still, the next sentence utilizes
data from a study by Knoche that posed hypothetical fishing situations to
determine angler preferences. The authors correctly quote Mr. Knoche in stating
that according to his hypothetical survey questions the average angler is
substantially and negatively impacted by restrictive regulations. The authors
neglect to report Mr. Knoche’s final statement in this section that says that from
an equity standpoint we should be looking at creating more fly fishing or even
no-kill regulation reaches. According to Knoche 22.5% of inland trout anglers
favor fly angling regulations, and at this time .6% of our trout fishing waters have
fly-fishing regulations. If Mr. Knoche’s advice and the conclusions from Dr.
Zorn’s Michigan 2015 Inland Trout Survey are to be followed, fisheries managers
should be searching at ways to increase Gear Restricted regulation usage not scale
There are large sections of the plan for which we have not provided specific comments. The majority of these sections we support and approve of the way they are addressed in the plan. Others sections we do not have the expertise to adequately comment in such a short timeframe. Our current comments on this draft plan are limited to items we feel need to be corrected or eliminated from the plan. Previous correspondence has assured us that there will be ample time to provide additional comments to the authors before the plan is finalized.
We are confident that the current Draft Plan can be further modified to better serve all stakeholders. This version of the Draft Plan is definitely a step in the right direction. We would like to thank everyone involved in this project for their efforts to revise the previous version of the Draft Plan. We look forward to working together to produce a final version of the Inland Trout Management Plan that reflects our constituents views.
Anglers of The AuSable
Habitat Committee Chair, and CWRSC representative
April 29, 2017, 4:30 – 10 pm (Dinner at 6 pm)
Otsego Club, Gaylord, MI
If you’re going to have a banquet on the Opening Day of Trout Season, it better be good. The Anglers of the Au Sable’s banquet
only happens every five years. Live and silent auctions, raffles, camaraderie, and a cause. This isn’t just for looks, this is to raise
money to protect the river from a discharge permit for a fish farm. Fly fishers know how important this fight is, which is why the
donations have been pouring in from guides, fly shops, sales representatives, and even the companies themselves. We’ve hardly
had to ask to receive what we think is a still accumulating line-up of goods and services.
• Guide trips from noted Michigan guides including Eric Grajewski, Jeff Hubbard, Jon
Ray, Kevin Feenstra and many others…
• Rare and collectible fly rods from Bob Summers, Sweetgrass Fly Rods, and Keystone
• Top end items from Sage, R.L. Winston, Simms, Bauer, Hatch and many others…
• Collectibles from Tom Morgan, Dennis Potter, Ogden Pleissner, Kent Lund and more…
• Excursions to Brookhaven Pond, a two-day midnight mousin’ adventure, a cast-andblast
• Original signed copies of Seasons on the Au Sable, by Rusty Gates…
• And a whole bunch more…
Tickets are $100/person. Tables are $1000. Tickets include choice of five entrees and two bar tickets.
To secure your tickets, CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS ONLINE or contact Josh Greenberg: Josh@GatesLodge.com or 989-348-8462. This event
will sell out so please don’t delay.
Please note: We are holding a block of rooms at the OCR Blue Spruce Lodge for April 29th with departure
the 30th. Cutoff date for these rooms is March 15, 2017. Individual rooms @ $99 plus tax can be
reserved by calling the resort’s main reservation line 989-732-5181.
U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Flint, announced introduction of legislation intended to prevent development of for-profit fish farms in the Great Lakes and connecting rivers. It may not be in time to help with our fight against the fish factory the state is allowing to pollute the Au Sable, but it’s a good step to prevent further pollution by fish farms in critical waters. Anglers President Tom Baird endorsed the effort on our behalf.
Anglers of the Au Sable plans to challenge a recommendation by a state administrative law judge issued Feb. 1 requiring some alterations to a Department of Environmental Quality permit issued to a fish farm in Grayling, but still allowing pollution of the Au Sable River.
“While the judge did call for additional monitoring of the river, and he mandated some minor improvements at the Grayling Fish Hatchery, his ruling still allows fish feces, excess food and escaped farm trout to continue polluting this pristine cold water resource,” said Tom Baird, president of Anglers of the Au Sable, an organization formed to protect the river. “The fish farm will still use the river as its sewer, and that should be unacceptable to all who use and live on this outstanding waterway. We will ask DEQ Director Heidi Grether to reject this permit completely and restore common sense to this situation.”
Read the entire AotA press release HERE.
Michigan Public Land Management At Risk – Calls and Letters Are Needed NOW! Stop Michigan Senate bills 39 & 40
These bills represent the most significant legislative intervention in public land management in the State’s history. These provisions include:
These proposed requirements collectively represent a significant diversion of DNR field staff time and resources away from the management of our forests, fisheries and wildlife. Don’t take our word for these provisions, here’s the bill analysis from the Senate Fiscal agency.
Please call or write Governor Rick Snyder (517-373-3400), State House Natural Resource Committee members and your District House Representative and voice your opposition to Senate Bills 39 & 40. (see links below); also, please call the DNR Administrative offices (517-284-6367) and ask them to oppose SB-39 & 40.
Gov. Snyder Contact link: http://www.michigan.gov/snyder/0,4668,7-277-57827-267869–,00.html
House Rep. Contact Link: http://house.michigan.gov/mhrpublic/frmRepList.aspx
Coalition to Stop MI Senate Bills 39 & 40