Where does Big Brownie come from?
Meet the farmers who give the Brown Trout Festival its star
ALPENA — Up to eight years before the star of the Michigan Brown Trout Festival is released into Lake Huron for the annual tournament, he or she is hatched in a small trout farm just north of Harrisville.
Cedarbrook Trout Farms has for the past 44 years raised the festival’s Big Brownie, a tagged fish released into Lake Huron and worth a big pot to the lucky angler who nets it. The Michigan Brown Trout Festival is now in its 45th year.
Farm owner Jerry Kahn said he was asked to donate a brown trout the second year of the festival because the festival committee was having trouble catching a brown trout straight out of Lake Huron to tag.
“They found it much easier to have me donate a brown every year from my broodstock,” he said.
He has been donating a fish from the farm ever since.
Each year, Big Brownie is selected from some 15,000 brown trout. Kahn said he also raises brook trout and rainbow trout, adding up to about 100,000 fish.
Kahn operates Cedarbrook with his partner, Michelle Glazier, and their son, James Glazier, who’s expected to one day take over the business.
The trout are hatched in the farm’s hatchery and gradually moved into bigger tanks, raceways, and ponds as they mature and eventually become adult fish. The fish are raised in a unique environment, since a freshwater aquifer, producing around 500 gallons per minute, is located nearby.
The farm uses gravity to circulate water from the aquifer throughout the farm. Because the aquifer’s temperature averages around 48 degrees, it’s ideal for raising trout.
Kahn said that, when he’s selecting a brown trout for the festival, he looks for good body, vibrant coloring, and aggressiveness. He said the committee likes the fish to be at least 18 inches long.
The fish is then caught in a net, selected and tagged. This year’s Big Brownie is a female, measuring 20 inches in length and weighing about 4 pounds.
“We want them to catch the fish,” he said. “They only caught it once during the tournament in the last 44 years.”
Kahn said it was “exciting” and “a big deal” when Big Brownie was caught during the festival in 2017 for the first time. He said that, until then, Big Brownie had been caught before the tournament and after the tournament, but never during the tournament.
“It was like a feather in my cap, because, talk about a 100% return,” he said, beaming.
Kahn said his farm has also stocked Thunder Bay with brown trout for the past three years through private donations made to the Brown Trout Festival. He said the Brown Trout Committee has had to pull a state permit because it’s a public body of water.
Kahn said the private stocking of brown trout has been successful.
“They’re starting to catch browns again,” he said. “There for about three or four years, they weren’t catching any browns. But, since these private plants of large adult fish, the return rate is much better in the creel census.”
Kahn said it’s better to stock adult fish, because they are less susceptible to predators such as cormorants or walleye. Kahn said brown trout are stocked in Thunder Bay in the fall, and the number of fish they stock depends on the amount of donations.
Kahn said 1,500 brown trout were stocked in Thunder Bay last year, 2,000 in 2017.
Kahn said that about 80% of his business comes from stocking private ponds, lake associations, and fishing clubs. He also provides fish for kid’s fishing days throughout the state.
In addition to raising fish for private groups, the farm has two ponds people can fish without a license required. The farm supplies the equipment, the bait and the clean-up of the fish for its customers.
Michelle said the farm sees repeat customers each year, often tourists who are eager to get trout for a meal while they are camping.
“We have generations of people who come here together, like three or four generations at a time, and they all came here as kids, which is quite a statement,” she said.
Kahn said he and his partner are also planning to offer smoked fish, along with fresh fish, beginning next year.
Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brown Trout Tournament Leaderboard
1. Mitch Arville 9.75
2. Don Muszynski 9.55
3. Tim Wieczorkowski
4. Don Harrison 7.8
1. Jon Kruttlin 15.65
2. Jason Rensberry 15.55
3. Henry Fornier 15.3
4. Brad Skiba 15.25
1. Dawn Martin 4.45
2. David Brege 4.05
3. Tom Schauland 3.65
1. Jon Kruttlin 9.6
2. Kevin Lundquist 8.2
3. Jim Vivian 8.05
4. Don Mischley 7.75
1. Shawn Szatkowski 21.4
2. Kim Misiak 18.25
3. Kevin Drummond 16.45
4. Adam Dzienski 16
1. Kim Wesaw 7.7
2. Dillon Schellie 7.55
3. Ed Clements 6.95
4. Eric Kruczynski 6.9
About Cedarbrook Trout Farms
∫ Located at 1543 Lakeshore Drive
∫ Opened from noon to 6 p.m. seven days a week between Memorial Day and Labor Day, noon to 5 p.m. on weekends after Labor Day
∫ Visit cedarbrooktroutfarms.weebly.com or call 989-724-5241 for more information