The board of directors of the Michigan Steelhead & Salmon Fishermen’s Association announced on Saturday that captain Denny Grinold was the recipient of its annual Howard A. Tanner Award for dedication and contribution to Michigan’s anadromous sport fishery.
Grinold operates Fish N Grin charters out of Grand Haven.
“The time and effort Denny Grinold has put in is unequalled and all of us have benefited greatly from his contributions,” said Jim VanderMaas, past president of the Michigan Steelhead & Salmon Fishermen’s Association. “It’s because of people like Denny, willing to sacrifice a substantial amount of his time and talent on behalf of the sport fishery, that we all continue to enjoy a world class sport fishery today.”
Born in DeWitt, Grinold grew up fishing with his dad and brothers on creeks, streams and the Looking Glass River. In 1973, he purchased his first boat, a 16-foot Starcraft. He gradually moved up in size until purchasing the 36-foot Bertram, Old Grin, in 1980.
Grinold began chartering for salmon in 1983, and introduced his clients to the new and emerging Great Lakes fishery. He also began fishing in and helping host tournaments. He ran the Grand Haven Tournament through 1988.
When the Lake Michigan fishery crashed in 1988 due to bacterial kidney disease, Grinold’s outlook changed from avid fisherman to concerned stakeholder. He wanted to understand what had happened, and why.
“I saw the opportunity with the formation of the first Lake Michigan Task Force in 1988 to contribute to the larger picture of protecting this great fishery and help determine what took place and what caused the collapse,” Grinold said. “There was a lot of finger pointing as to who was responsible.
“Little was known about the life cycle of salmon. The fishery division would collect the eggs in the fall and raise the fish in hatcheries over the winter and plant them in the spring. Everyone just expected the fishery to get better, which it did every year up to the crash, with 1986 being the best year on record for catch rates.
“No one really had an answer, and there was a lot of misunderstanding, so I joined the task force with an open mind, listening to the various reasons being given, and we finally came to the conclusion that there were too many predators in the lake (salmon) causing stress in the fish and contributing to the rapid spread of the disease.”
In 1990, the task force published its report. Soon after, the Fisheries Division began screening all salmonid adult eggs during spawning operations to detect the presence of bacterial kidney disease. All fish and eggs that tested positive were destroyed.
There were other benefits that came out of the task force as well.
“We saw the establishment of net pen projects and we established the charter boat reporting requirements, which has proved to be a huge management tool for the fisheries division,” said Grinold.
In 2011, Grinold was given the “Buzz” Besadny Award for fostering Great Lakes partnerships, in large part due to his ability to bring divergent opinions to the table and gain consensus through active listening and good communications.
“Denny is a bridge builder between groups, developing relationships and focusing people on what they have in common,” said John Robertson, a former Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Chief.
Michigan State University honored Grinold with its Honorary Alumnus Award in 2012, recognizing him for “providing a distinctive contribution to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources on a statewide level for his unique services that benefited humankind.”