GRAYLING – State officials have informed Anglers of the Au Sable that at least 2,000 fish died around July 13 at the Harrietta Hills Fish Hatchery, located on the East Branch of the Au Sable River. The facility was allegedly treated with “formalin” in an attempt to stop the disease outbreak believed to have caused the die-off.
Because the fish farm is a flow-through facility – where water flows in from the river, through the fish-rearing area and then right back into the river – there is a high likelihood that formalin is in Au Sable as a result. Formalin is derived from formaldehyde, a known cancer-causing agent.
‘We are very concerned that the hatchery has introduced this disease to native fish, and ask state officials to inform the public what they are doing to prevent its spread.’
Hemming said he submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the DEQ and expects a formal response Wednesday.
“The DEQ official was forthcoming in terms of what had happened,” Hemming said.
The DEQ issued the fish farm an operational permit to discharge effluent into the Au Sable fish over the objections of Anglers and others. Because the hatchery water flows into a children’ only fly fishing segment of the river, Anglers urges the DEQ to insist that Dan Vogler, owner of the fish farm, post signs saying the water is being chemically treated.
Anglers now is fighting the fish farm in Crawford Circuit Court, arguing the permit was issued in violation of the Michigan Environmental Protection Act and will result in additional pollution and fish diseases in one of the nation’ top trout rivers, along with the likelihood of escapement of farm fish into a naturally reproducing fishery.
The fish reportedly were infected with ich, a disease identifed by white spots. Guides and others on the river are asked to keep an eye open for any diseased fish and inform local fly shops, who can pass on the information to the state Department of Natural Resources.
It’s the second environmental incident at the hatchery during the past year. The state acknowledged a rare invasive species of snail was found in the hatchery last fall.
The DNR said an inspection of the hatchery was conducted following the discovery in June by biologists of Anglers of the AuSable, of what appeared to be New Zealand mud snails immediately downstream of the hatchery. New Zealand mud snails compete with native snails and other macro invertebrates that trout may eat.
Inspection of the Grayling Hatchery followed a Sept. 6 letter from Anglers of the AuSable President Tom Baird to Gov. Rick Snyder requesting an inspection of the hatchery.
However, an Oct. 4 release by the DNR indicated it inspected the facility immediately following a July letter from Harrietta Farms.