Anglers of the Au Sable open to new possibilities at Grayling Fish Hatchery
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Learning occurred on both ends of the spectrum as the Grayling Fish Hatchery continued to operate during the tourism season.
Joe Hemming, the past-president of the Anglers of the Au Sable, gave a presentation to the Crawford County Board of Commissioners at a meeting held on Thursday, November 14, regarding their partnership with the county.
The Anglers of the Au Sable operated the hatchery, now known as the Grayling Hatchery, Inc., from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Brook, brown, and rainbow trout were reared in the raceways. Turtles were also kept in another raceway, which was filled with sand by the movement of water through the facility, for community members and visitors to see.
“They really liked that and that worked out well,” Hemming said.
Hemming said a lot of learning went on through the season.
“They were enthusiastic about learning about the hatchery and learning about the river,” Hemming said about visitors to the historic community landmark.
Hemming said the hatchery will serve as a wonderful platform for education as the angling and conservation organization continues to operate the facility.
“There is certainly a lot of potential there,” he said.
Excess fish, after the close of the season, were planted in the pond at Hanson Hills and in Howes Lake in Frederic Township.
The fish were tested by Department of Natural Resources staff to ensure they were disease-free.
“Hopefully, that will be good for the community and they can catch some fish from the hatchery,” Hemming said.
In July, the Crawford County Board of Commissioners unanimously gave the go ahead to remove two walkways on the north side of the facility. The walkways are basically cement slabs, which go over the water.
The reason for removal of the walkways is sand that came into the hatchery when the bridge over the AuSable River on North Down River Road was replaced in 2016.
Hemming said it would be more convenient and less costly to remove the sand with an excavator rather than by hand once the walkways were removed.
The major removal of sand will likely occur next spring.
“Some but not all the sand has been removed,” Hemming said. “There is a lot of sand that pushes through there.”
County Commissioner Sharon Priebe inquired about the installation of handicapped walkways, which would link with sidewalks that are under the bridge.
Hemming said the Anglers spent $25,000 getting the hatchery up and running.
“This first season came at us fast and furious,” he said. “It took a lot to get those gates open and make sure there were fish in the raceways.”
Priebe, who is the county liaison to Hanson Hills, praised the group for placing fish in the pond at the recreational area.
“That’s a nice draw for us,” she said.
Finally, Priebe said it is nice to have the hatchery open for school trips from area students, like she experienced.
“To this day, it sticks in my mind what I learned there,” Priebe said.
Hemming said the Anglers would be forging ahead with new plans and ideas for the hatchery this winter. He committed to coming back before the board with a tally of visitors to the facility as well as any proceeds generated.
“It was not a money-making proposition in any way,” Hemming said.
Hemming said there is room to build upon on what the group offers visitors.
“It really was a learning experience for us,” he said. “This was all new territory for us.”
Effective January 1, 2019 the lease held by the Harrietta Hills Trout Farm, LLC, a Michigan limited liability company, was transferred to the Anglers of the Au Sable, a Michigan nonprofit corporation.
The agreement ended a four-year legal battle over plans to establish a fish farming operation at the hatchery.
The Anglers of the Au Sable paid the Harrietta Hills Trout Farm, LLC $160,000 to walk away from the operation.