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Amusement Park Announced for Prized Michigan Trout Stream

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Tourists looking to visit the old Grayling Fish Hatchery this summer to throw a few pellets and maybe wet a line will be thrilled to find that the hatchery is now a fully-fledged amusement park. Doing what they do best, Hunkeydory Hills has exploited yet another aspect of their arrangement with the county by opening Desolation Au Sable, a hatchery-themed amusement park. Providing that much needed bump to already skyrocketing revenues, the park pokes some good natured fun at county and state officials eager to give away the resource.  “It was kind of a joke when I said we should memorialize the desolation of the Au Sable with a theme park” commented Dale Vermin, owner and operator of Hunkeydory Hills, “and they freakin’ gave it to us!”.

Vacationers will really enjoy the attractions and rides awaiting them at Desolation Au Sable including the Au Sable Tilt-A-Whirling Disease, a classic ride with a local flare. Patrons will be thrilled by the crazy corkscrew ride, not unlike the journey that many juvenile trout stricken with whirling disease will be making in the river. This Tilt-A-Whirl is not for the faint of heart and boasts a 90% mortality rate, similar for both patrons and trout fingerlings. Survivors will be rewarded with a lifetime supply of skeletal deformation and neurological damage.

Those seeking interactive exhibits and youth oriented activities will be not be disappointed. “Overload the Ecosystem” lets guests enjoy dumping trash can sized hoppers of phosphorous and fish excrement directly into tanks of unsuspecting rainbow fingerlings. Children will experience a sense of unrestrained glee watching fish spend their remaining seconds in confusion and agony. Later, algal blooms develop and provide park attendees with a sense of natures chemically enhanced beauty.

Kids will also love the “Suffocator” where they will enjoy witnessing trout mortality first-hand as trout pens fed with clear, cold, oxygen enriched river water are switched with warm oxygen-deficient water simulating expected summer conditions on the Au Sable. Prizes will be awarded to kids able to estimate the number of floating fish, rounded to the nearest thousand.

Extending the olive branch, Hunkeydory Hills will generously hire locals unable to find gainful employment following the decline of the Au Sable fishery. In addition to earning minimum wage as attraction and ride operators, former guides and lodge owners will enjoy re-living the devastation and horror of their fishery’s decline each day in painful detail.

Expectations are high for Desolation Au Sable this summer as families begin planning dream vacations in the little town formerly known for trout fishing.

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Fish Farmageddon

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***Folks, we interrupt your regularly schedule programming to bring you a special feature on the issues going on regarding the proposed fish farm on the historic Au Sable river.  While the information here may read as outlandish as other Tuesday Bananas articles, it is not embellished, nor is it satire.

A dangerous cocktail of entrepreneurial myopia, county officials willing to pimp out a priceless and fragile resource, and an agency asleep at the wheel has been poured in northern Michigan as the largest fish farming business in the state gears up for production just upstream of the famed Holy Waters of the Au Sable River.

Harietta Hills Trout Farm is on the verge of turning a simple caretaker arrangement with Crawford County to operate the historic Grayling Fish Hatchery into wads of cash as they plan to ramp production up from 20,000 pounds of trout annually to 300,000 pounds.

The East Branch of the Au Sable literally runs through the hatchery where river water is directed into rearing areas called raceways then right back into the river at a rate of 8.64 million gallons per day. Hatcheries with far less production are required to operate wastewater treatment systems with settling ponds and chemical treatments to bind and drop out phosphorous and other pollutants. But let’s not talk about that in the face of economic prosperity for Harietta Hills. Also, let’s not even mention the risk of introducing invasive species and disease to the Au Sable as hundreds of thousands of pounds of trout are moved in and out of the place each year. While we’re at it,

Let’s not ask why a study wasn’t required to understand impacts to pollution intolerant aquatic invertebrates such as mayflies, stoneflies, and caddis when a giant trout toilet is constantly flushed into their faces.

Let’s not discuss prudent lease requirements to rear only native species such as brook, brown, and rainbow trout OR discuss the effect on wild fish when farm fish, hopefully not exotics, escape into the Au Sable.

Let’s not get upset about the site’s MDEQ pollution permit that actually states “lowering of water quality is necessary to support the identified important social and economic development in the area”.

Let’s not ask about the moral hazard of Harietta Hills self-monitoring water quality by collecting their own weekly pollution discharge sampling and why it’s not done on a automated and continuous basis.

Let’s not discuss what happens when mass quantities of hatchery fish are treated with formalin, better known as formaldehyde, to remove parasites allowing residual chemical to flow into the river OR what happens when some knucklehead employee dumps 20 gallons instead of 20 ounces into the river.

Let’s not ask Harietta Hills why they need to go from 20,000 pounds to 300,000 pounds of trout in order to make the tourist attraction profitable.

Let’s not ask why Harietta Hills isn’t having to put up financial assurance such as a performance bond or environmental pollution coverage to restore damage that may be caused.

Let’s not ask MDNR or MDEQ why they are willing to allow phosphorous levels to increase with seasonal, summer fluctuations, instead of requiring more restrictive limits during the time of year fish are most stressed.

Let’s not discuss permit bypass provisions which allow, during unavoidable events including property damage, for effluent limitations to be exceeded.

Let’s not discuss the risk of whirling disease, known to increase when raceways are filled to capacity.

Harietta Hills says they are simply responding to a seafood crisis and that we should get behind them.  It would seem that their motives are a bit less altruistic and a bit more capitalistic.  Regarding economic benefit, just how many jobs will this will actually create, maybe a couple?  How many jobs do we stand to lose if guides, restaurants, hotels, and retailers, are unable to make money off the amazing fishery that exists today?

Allowing a giant trout farm in the headwaters of the AuSable is simply bananas.

Go to Anglers of the Au Sable webpage to learn more and make a donation.


Heavy Expectations for Flint River Bass

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Credible reports of behemoth smallmouth action resulted in Bassmaster rescheduling this year’s Classic, previously scheduled for Tulsa, OK, to the Flint River in Michigan.  Toxic river conditions will likely result in lower than normal catch numbers, however, lead-infused bass have tournament officials expecting record breaking tournament results.  Anglers able to haul in just one or two of these metallic monsters are likely to break the 65 pound longstanding tournament record.

With the tournament merely weeks away, anglers are scrambling to decorate their hazmat suits, a requisite given the nature of conditions, with sponsor logo’s and color schemes unique to each contestant’s image. Monofilament and fluorocarbon lines simply melt when exposed to the Flint River so anglers are spooling up with a variety of braided metallic products capable of withstanding the extreme environment. Expect to see boats coated with impervious truck-liner materials and anglers waving metal detectors instead of relying on traditional sonar equipped fish finders.

Tournament fish, typically released at designated locations following each day’s weigh-in, will be belt-fed into a portable onsite incinerator to assist with the removal of lead from the ecosystem. Remarkable opportunity arises as the world looks toward Flint Michigan to figure out the crisis in their water system.

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Damsel Madness

A couple years ago I was on a streamer trip with friend Joe Donati.   It was a day in late May and the weather was warm and overcast with water a bit up and stained, perfect for pulling bugs.  Joe had landed a few nice trout and we came into a straightaway with grass tight to the bank.  I was rowing and Joe noticed a trout shoot completely out of the water for some right along the bank.  We dropped anchor mid-river and watched for a bit as more fish along the bank proceeded to come flying out of the water with reckless abandon.  We soon realized they were going after damsels hovering near the grass.  We sat there for a while just watching one after another taking shots at these bugs that were obviously driving the trout mad.  Neither of us had anything remotely similar to a damsel so Joe just went with a hopper pattern and was able to get one to go.  I took some video that really doesn’t do the moment justice  but worth sharing.

After telling Bob this story that evening he laughed and said that he’d just taken the two or three damsels he had parked in his dry fly box out because he never thought he’d get a shot at fishing them.

If you’ve been living off the grid for the past couple years and haven’t seen this amazing video of trout crashing damsels then check this out.


New Direction for Michigan Fisheries

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The Michigan DNR enthusiastically announced this week that they will be making some exciting changes to their 2016 fisheries plan. Stocking programs previously geared toward rainbow and brown trout, chinook salmon, and steelhead will be scuttled and replaced with a host of species from the Amazon basin including golden dorado, payara, and piranha.  “We figured what the hell? Asian carp are knocking on the door, gobies are everywhere, and zebra mussels carpet the bottom of our rivers. How can we make this place any worse?” commented DNR representative Jimmy Lee Farnsworth.

Most view this as apparent evidence that MDNR has simply thrown in the towel in favor of a shotgun approach with a bit of scorched earth policy sprinkled in. “These fish exhibit a tenacity and resilience to nearly everything Michigan rivers will put in their way from frigid winter temps to springtime floods and summertime heat.

Let’s get a better look at this year’s starting lineup

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Salminus brasiliensis, or golden dorado, are incredibly strong, acrobatic fighting fish that attain weights in excess of 30 pounds. This migratory gamefish will take a variety of streamers, dead drift flies and even surface swung presentations not unlike Atlantic salmon. They sport an impressive set of choppers earning them the nickname pit bull of the trout world.

Payara

Payara Photo Credit

Hydrolicus scomberoides, or payara, are a ferocious migratory gamefish commonly referred to as Jurassic salmon since they are constructed similar to a giant Atlantic salmon and share a metallic silver sheen. The mouth of the payara is what sets them apart from all other gamefish, as they sport an intimidating set of razor sharp fangs which protrude from the lower jaw like two glistening tusks.

Piranha

Piranha Photo Credit

Phygocentrus nattereri, or piranha, because, why not? Smaller than the others, they range from 5.5 to 10.2 inches in length with trophies in the 17 inch class. They have a single row of tightly packed sharp teeth that are interlocked for puncturing and shearing flesh. Similar to bluegill in their fight, the real challenge is being able to remove hooks before one’s fingers are removed.

When asked regarding the impact, if any, recreational users of Michigan lakes and streams this will experience, Farnsworth commented “I don’t think inner tube floating is going to be that popular anymore.  Also, anyone trying to snag a Payara is likely to be eviscerated”.  Amazon basin plants are expected to clean up what remains of chinook salmon and most living creatures in the Great Lakes region in a matter of weeks.

It took nearly 60 million years for these fish to make their way to Michigan. No longer will deforestation, illegal poaching, water pollution, wetland degradation and oil spills be what makes Michigan and the Amazon basin so similar. Now we’ll have some of their ferocious fish.

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Disorders Among Fly Fishermen Revealed

The Psychiatric Association of America recently updated their exhaustive list of over 500 mental disorders with a number of sport-related conditions. Unsurprisingly, Fly fishermen were found to identify with conditions unique to their sport.fishing

Grip-n-grinitis

Fly fishermen are susceptible to this condition following prolonged periods of fishless outings such as the fall of 2015 when most Michigan anglers failed to satisfy their self-imposed hero-shot quotas. Grip-n-grinitis causes frustrated fly fishermen to seek photo opportunities with anything slightly intriguing. Recognizing red flags and knowing the indicators of the disorder are important.

During early onset, those afflicted seem enamored with everyday items and often ask for a photo presenting the item, occasionally demanding a measurement. As the disorder manifests itself further, those stricken with the condition exhibit manic behaviors including high-fives and fist pumps following these meaningless sessions.

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     Learn to recognize the signs.  This man is dying inside

If not properly treated grip-n-grinitis can lead to more severe conditions including ED, tourettes, narcolepsy, and eventually heroin addiction. Help is not far away, and in fact, it goes by the name Ohio. Thirty or forty steelhead landed during a weekend trip to steelhead alley typically cures even the most afflicted fly fisherman and temporarily satiates the anglers need for attention.

Tactiphobia

This disorder is an intense fear of fly fishing techniques applied by others that do not resound with one’s personal preferences. Tactiphobics tend to overzealously persecute those who do not subscribe to their definition of the sport with an inability to show empathy for other human beings. Tactiphobics are generally easy to identify whether in person or in online chat forums where they can be found denigrating ideas not of their own. Tactiphobia is a psychopathological condition characterized by fantasies of supreme relevance, over inflated self-esteem, and megalomania.

Concensus among psychologists is that there is no known treatment for the disorder given that those suffering from the affliction have no interest in examining or changing their behaviors and tend to spiral into narcissistic insanity.

As with many conditions, early detection is of the utmost importance. Seek help if you or one of your friends exhibit signs of these disorders.  Learn to identify red flags, whether it’s something as small as asking for a picture with a nicely prepared omelette or large such as witnessing someone enthusiastically bash another angler’s methods.  PAA representatives ask fly fishermen to remain vigilant and stay tuned, clinical trials are underway for over 30 additional Fly Fishing disorders.

 

 

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2016 Fly Fishing Darwin Awards

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2015 yielded a bounty of Darwin Awards in the fly fishing category. For those unfamiliar with the prestigious award, it’s given to individuals who have contributed to human evolution by selecting themselves out of the gene pool via death or sterilization by their own actions. It’s quite apparent that not all fly fishermen are the intellectuals that they are made out to be.

Green River, UT – After talking-up his rowing skills, Joe Pulaski accepted a bet from friends that he could row Mother-In-Law, a class II rapid, blindfolded. Pulaski’s blindfold and 0.2 BAC eventually led to his demise as his boat spun perpendicular to the river and taco’d against the Mother herself in the center of the run.

Baldwin, MI – Stan Hurley was on fire during the fall of 2016. He consistently hooked fish while his friends could do nothing other than work the net. His life and his secret were both given up on a high water day last December in the flies only stretch of the PM when Stan became hung up on the far bank from where he was fishing. Taking a break, his friend Paul saw that he might be able to help and began walking downriver toward Stan who began reefing on the tangle and yelling “I’ve got it”. Fearing his dirty little secret from becoming known, Stan attempted to wade across the river and was carried under to his death. Stan and his spawn sack-tipped flies were both later dislodged from the lumber.

Newaygo, MI – Muskegon newbie boat owner Gavin Hurst was the victim of impatience this past spring when he became frustrated with the pace of a drift boat puttering upstream ahead of him.  Described by his fishing partner,  who miraculously survived the event, Hurst floored his new power drifter to pass on the inside bend just below piano rock at full throttle.  Just as Hurst raised his middle finger to salute the slow moving drift boat his boat caught the front edge of the giant rock, raking the bottom of his boat from stem to stern and exploding the lower unit of his new Mercury.  Hurst was gruesomely impaled by his centerpin rod and did not survive the impact.

Honorable Mentions, those individuals who survived their misadventures with their lives and/or reproductive capacity intact, were numerous last year. For his third year in a row, Hank Peterson found himself in a life and death struggle when he was struck by lightning while streamer fishing the Madison River during a thunderstorm. Following his 2015 event when a pike bit into his femoral artery, most thought Hank would start making better decisions.

Readers are encouraged to cast votes in favor of this year’s winner. Last year’s winner Martin Beele, who removed the front casting braces from his new drift boat for more space, won in a landslide. Cast your votes carefully and remember that style counts, not everyone who dies from their own stupidity can win.


Kids

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Kids can be a blast to hang out with in the outdoors.  They’re fascinated by so many things that we just take for granted and most of the time their expectations are just to have fun, something that’s often way down on my “to-do” list when I head to the river.  I couldn’t wait to start fishing with my son but I had this nagging sense of dread as to whether he’d eventually join me, willingly, on trips in the cold, crappy weather that makes me love living and fishing in Michigan.

We started with summertime floats on the river for smallmouth, a perfect segway from the foam spiders and bluegill pond. Good times indeed, each of us enjoying a beverage of choice, talking about turtles, trying to identify bugs flying around, watching the sun go down and feeling the heat push out of the day. Summertime smallmouth fishing is a low key good time and hard to beat. It’s simple. Pack a cooler, grab a couple rods, maybe even a spinning rod because why not? Casting a topwater Zudbubbler or the ever deadly Rebel Craw and just kick it down the river. In the back of my mind I thought about steelhead fishing and whether this would be where it ends for us. The weather can be brutal, turtles and signs of life are nowhere to be found, those bugs and sun are gone and fish are few and far between

I decided to take a small step toward steelhead fishing by doing some salmon trips on small water to give him a sense of the creatures that migrate into our rivers in the fall. Our first trip was a September day on the Pere Marquette during one of those years when the fish were everywhere. My dad joined us that day and the little guy managed to get one in the net. A guide who patiently waited in his boat with clients until we had it in the bag tossed him a reward Reese’s peanut butter cup as they passed by with both clients laughing and congratulating him. It was perfect and yet I still worried whether this would be where it ends or if steelhead fishing might just happen

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My dad wanted to join us on our steelhead trips looking to make some memories. I realized that I was outmatched with my dad in his 70’s and an 8 year old. I pictured double-duty rigging, un-snagging, cooking, and I threw in the towel. I hired a guide and it was the best decision I could have made.

The first trip he fished a few hours and played angry birds for the last couple hours of the day. He was 8 and I figured making him fish would eventually backfire on me. On the second trip I casted for him most of the time and he fished about half of the day and ate twizzlers and talked about whatever was on his mind. He was happy and that was all that mattered. On the third trip he thought it was hilarious to step on my line when I went to cast. During the fourth trip he got into the game. He asked lots of fishing-related questions and began wanting to catch fish. He started getting competitive with me and it was awesome but he was on the struggle bus when it came to fighting fish. On the fifth trip he figured out how to fight fish, when to apply pressure and when to take the hand off the reel and let the fish run. During the last few trips he has pretty much figured it out.

It hasn’t been easy and we’ve had a bunch of fish-less days together which is just not that big of a deal to either of us.  Sometimes trips get shut down early and somedays we push on.  On one of our first smallmouth trips we never launched the boat. We spent the afternoon up at the Croton dam catching crayfish, trailered the boat up and went back home. I’ve learned to reacquaint myself with what makes fishing fun, hanging out with a buddy and taking what comes our way.

Jack MO Bacon Nov 4 2015a


Illegal Fly Tying Business Busted

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Kalamazoo police arrested a couple suspected of operating an illegal underage fly tying operation this past week in the quiet neighborhood of Milwood.  Search warrants were issued following an eight month sting focused on Jerry and Betsy Hankin, suspected of forced child labor involving their three children.

School representatives reportedly tipped off police in early 2015 when it was learned that the children were nicknamed after popular trout and steelhead flies. “After one of the kids was asked to be referred to as Glo-Bug we didn’t think much” noted Principal Gabe Henderson, “but after his sister mentioned that her parents now call her Size 22 Adams at home, we found that unusual”.

A grizzly scene awaited police in the basement of the home.  Although well adorned with high quality materials, tables and vises, the rest of the basement looked like a Barny-themed sweatshop.  Even more disturbing was the music being piped in which included “The hackle on the fly goes round and round” and “Itsy bitsy foam spider”.

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Attempting to defend his actions, Jerry Hankin stated “It’s not like we’re making them smelt iron, we pay them better than adults doing the same work in Kenya and Detroit.”  Hankin continued extolling the virtues of having flies tied by children such as their amazing dexterity and ability to tie the smallest flies with ease.  Hankin also commented that they exude a deep sense of accomplishment and satisfaction after 14 or 15 hours at the vise.

Commenting on the arrests, local fly shop owner Dale Schwartz stated “I’m shocked, I wasn’t aware that we could even buy flies tied by adults”.  Schwartz later asked for his statement to be redacted.

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Mitt Monkeys Top Arkansas Invasive Species List

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has issued an Invasive Species Alert for Mitt Monkeys, replacing the Northern Snakehead as one of the top threats to state waters.  Unsurprisingly, the alert coincides with the annual winter migration of Mitt Monkeys to the warm and friendly White and North Fork Rivers.  Employing a multi-media approach, the Commission has strategically placed billboards on I44 and other common northern routes of travel displaying the the familiar circle-backslash symbol over a monkey and the phrase “When it comes to invasive species, Zebra Mussels aren’t alone, Mitt Monkeys go the F back home!”

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The Commission’s Invasive Species page provides the following detail:

Origin – Native mostly to Michigan they have been found to originate from nearby states including Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio. Irritating numbers started appearing in the late 1980’s. This detestable species is known to inhabit AR watersheds during winter and early spring. Appearances range from hipster to dumpster diver but most are characterized by mismanaged facial hair, a propensity to go shirtless in temps above 40 degrees, are often seen consuming BBQ like a swarm of locusts, and generally act like they own the place.

Damage – Voracious consumers of craft beer and beef jerky, the species is known to choke out native fishermen by blanketing local streams. Millions of dollars are spent annually to discourage their travel to AR. They attach themselves to local bars, restaurants, women, and hotels, sometimes for weeks at a time.  If they spread they could disrupt the natural order of fisheries in the US.

Prevention – If you encounter one, don’t try to kill it. If engaged in a conversation, residents are strongly discouraged from suggesting fly patterns or alternate fishing techniques as they can be met with intense opposition. Deterrents include commenting on slow fishing, salad bars, math, and expensive shuttle rates.  It is rumored that they can carry disease so handling is discouraged.

“It’s time we stop with the southern hospitality and put our boot where the sun don’t shine” commented resident and outspoken monkey opponent Hank Himler.  “Last year they burned our dam”, referring to the Bull Shoals disaster, “and this year it’s time to send them packing”.  (Click to read about the assualt on the Bull Shoals dam)

Northern snakehead, feral hogs, silver carp, and now Mitt Monkeys. Time will tell as to whether AR survives this year’s infestation and if anything can be done to slow the annual Mitt Monkey invasion.