au sable river landscape

How Fish Farming Poses a Major Threat to Michigan's Au Sable River

Michigan's premier trout destination could be in jeopardy.

 The Au Sable River runs through 138 miles of Michigan's Northern Lower Peninsula. That is 138 miles of the best trout fishing East of the Rockies. Most of which hinges in the balance of a court decision from Grayling, MI.

In 1914 a hatchery was built in Grayling. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources ran the hatchery for trout stocking. Most of the trout went into the Au Sable until the river was able to sustain wild populations of it's own. Once the stocking ceased, it was hard to keep the operation profitable.

Then in 2012 came the court case that is causing the rift between the anglers and the community. A fish farmer had a way to make the hatchery profitable. The idea was to run it like a similar farm the farmer has on the Manistee river, another great trout stream in Michigan. Both farms would grow and sell the trout for restaurants and stores. He obtained the proper permits and had an agreement with a county to help keep the hatchery open.

The permits where then challenged by the Sierra Club and the Anglers of the Au Sable. They claim that it is a discharge permit, and the amount has to be determined by the Department of Environmental Quality. The problem lies in the disagreement over what is and isn't harmful to the waters.

The primary concern are the discharge levels of phosphorus. Phosphorus is great for growing plants not trout. The river would change from clean and clear to tinged and have massive weed growth from the phosphorus; which triggers a fish die off. Which would force a fish stocking in the Au Sable.

Au Sable trout are wild, adding to the appeal of catching the fish in its clear, clean waters add to the appeal of the area. The fish farm poses a big risk to a Pure Michigan river. Is it worth risking keeping a fish hatchery profitable at the potential loss of one of the greatest trout streams?