Historic fish hatchery re-opens


Staff Writer

STAMBAUGH TOWNSHIP – After standing vacant for several years, the historic Cooks Run fish hatchery in Iron County’s Stambaugh Township is finally back in operation.

The facility was built in the mid-1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and includes the fish habitat in the Cooks Run stream, which is blocked off with weirs and screens, the caretaker’s log cabin, and a network of trails around the stream.

It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Earlier this year, the Iron County Board of Commissioners gave Dino Giannola of Watersmeet permission to operate the facility. Giannola also owns and operates the Watersmeet Trout Hatchery and Fish Farm.

Giannola had originally approached the board about operating Cooks Run back in 2008, shortly after it was vacated by the previous operators.

However, the timing just wasn’t right and the facility remained vacant for years.

Giannola said that he is now better prepared to take on the project.

Per his contract with the county, he will have a caretaker live on the property, keep the facility open to the public, and provide $7,500 worth of brook trout and brown trout from the hatchery to be stocked in lakes across the county.

Giannola explained that he is viewing this year as a trial run for the facility.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” he noted. “There’ll be some trial and error.”

For example, Giannola needs to see if Cooks Run can support trout year-round, or if the stream will freeze over. To be safe, he will take this year’s trout out of Cooks Run in late fall and transport them to his Watersmeet facility for the winter.

Giannola hopes to begin working with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in stocking Iron County lakes next spring.

“That’s when I have the most fish,” he explained.

Giannola also pointed out that he does not yet have regular hours scheduled for tours.

Since the county owns Cooks Run, it is open to the public. However, there is no fishing allowed.

To make an appointment to tour the facility, contact Giannola at the Watersmeet Trout Hatchery at (906) 358-4331.

Next year, Giannola would like to start holding regular hours on weekends.

Cooks Run is located about 14 miles west of downtown Iron River on Cooks Run Road.

Nikki Younk’s e-mail address is