Cooks Run Fish Hatchery to begin trout production
Lansing — A historic Upper Peninsula fish-rearing facility has reopened with the aim of providing trout to stock lakes and streams in Iron County.
County officials this spring approved a lease allowing local resident Dino Giannola to operate the unique Cooks Run Fish Hatchery in Stambaugh Township after nearly nine years of inactivity.
The “hatchery” is actually more accurately described as a trout-rearing facility, and was designed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s using a system of weirs and screens on the Cooks Run stream.
Giannola, who also runs the nearby Watersmeet Trout Hatchery and Fish Farm, approached the county to take over Cooks Run earlier this year. As part of the deal, Giannola agreed to provide $7,500 worth of trout to the county, as well as educational tours each year in exchange for use of the facility, he said.
“We had a lot of work to do cleaning up the ponds, and there’s still a lot of work to do,” Giannola told Michigan Outdoor News. “I have three caretakers who live out there and take care of the (fish.) We’re hoping next year we’ll open up regular hours.”
For now, Giannola is offering tours by appointment only.
The Cooks Run rearing facility includes several outbuildings, as well as a historic caretakers cabin along Cooks Run Road about 14 miles west of Iron River. The Cooks Run facility is essentially “like rearing ponds” with great conditions for raising various species of trout. Giannola said he stocked about 5,000 to 6,000 brook and brown trout about 6 to 8 inches long at Cooks Run earlier this year, and he’s optimistic about their growth potential in the stream.
“The water seems ideal. From our research, the water doesn’t get above 55 degrees,” Giannola said. “It’s kind of an experiment for me. You can put six inches on a fish there over the summer.”
The previous operators at Cooks Run would bring in as many as 100,000 fingerlings and rear them, but Giannola said he’s taking a different tack.
“What I’m doing is bringing in a little bit bigger fish and raising them up to 10 to 12 inches,” he said. “That’s the main reason to put them there, because they grow so fast it’s more efficient with the feed.”
Giannola said he hopes to eventually raise up to 10,000 fish at the facility each year.
“Between the county, myself, and the DNR, we’ll decide … where the fish are going to go” this fall, he said.
Carl Lind, chairman of the Iron County board of commissioners, said officials haven’t decided exactly where the fish might go, but the focus will be on maximizing the return from the facility.
“We don’t know what lakes or streams they’re going into yet,” Lind said. “With input from DNR biologists, the county, and the leaser, we will put the fish where they have the best chance for survival.”
According to Jessica Mistak, DNR Northern Lake Michigan fisheries supervisor, “If the fish are going to be stocked in a public water body, DNR Fisheries is involved in the private stocking permit process.
“For the most part, we just try to guide them so what they want to stock in public waters makes sense,” Mistak said, adding that the private stocking permit process is a free service. “We haven’t spoken with the county yet, but we fully anticipate being contacted if the fish are going in public waters.”
Stocking fish in private, landlocked water bodies doesn’t require the state’s approval, she said.
For more information about the Cooks Run facility, or to schedule a tour, residents are encouraged to call Giannola at his Watersmeet hatchery at (906) 358-4331.