Fly fishers challenge DEQ approved fish farm

A group of fly fishers 8-hundred strong have challenged a fish farm on the Au Sable river.

Although the farm has been approved by the Department of Environmental Quality, the anglers are still worried it poses a threat to the river.

The Au Sable river is known worldwide as sacred ground for it’s trout fishing. One angler describes the river as ‘the holy water’.

“Oh my goodness, the holy water is special special water. You fish it and your heart just sings.”

Joe Hemming is one of the attorneys for the Anglers of the Au Sable. They’re the group who appealed the DEQ’s approval of the fish farm.

As of now, there is a fish hatchery that’s been on the Au Sable for over a century. The new proposal, if allowed, would grow the hatchery significantly to produce 300-thousand pounds of trout every year.

Hemming said anglers are worried the fish farm would harm the ecosystem of the river which, he said, is fragile.

“The type of insects that hatch in that river, they are very sensitive. If that water is not sufficiently clean, oxygenated, those insects won’t hatch there. That’s what draws the fish to the insects, the fisherman to the fish, to try and cast a dry fly for the rising trout.”

Hemming said the river isn’t just important to anglers, claiming it has a serious economic impact as well.

“This river is so important not just to fly fisherman, but to the local economy, to the regional economy, to tourists, to property owners. They come, they stay, they spend their money. It’s important to the local economy that we keep that river clean.”

Hemming said the Anglers are not opposed to the idea of a fish hatchery. However, they are opposed to the current DEQ-approved plan.

Officials with the business behind the trout farm, Harrietta Hills, said they plan to put in filters that would capture roughly 90% of the fish waste.

Hemming and the anglers said they are wary of that claim.