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Through a Michigan State University "virtual" resource, students are afforded opportunities to learn about science in the context of the charismatic lake sturgeon.

STURGEON SHIVAREE: Cheboygan to Host Festival for Ancient Fish Feb. 5-6

January 24, 2016       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Sturgeon For Tomorrow presents the Black Lake Sturgeon Shivaree Feb. 5-6 in Cheboygan.

Proceeds go to fund lake sturgeon hatchery, research, habitat conservation, and outreach programs.

The Shivaree will coincide with the opening of Black Lake Sturgeon season which opens on Saturday, February 6. Activities will be on Black Lake in front of the former Black Lake Hotel: 1701 Winifred Street, Cheboygan, MI 49721.

Lake sturgeon throughout the Great Lakes appear to be on the rebound, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The recent sightings and scientific research indicate age-class structure within the current populations. This is a positive sign that natural reproduction is occurring, particularly with the number of juvenile sightings. Although populations are believed to be increasing, they are still impaired with relation to historical abundance.

This ancient family of fishes has been recognized since the Upper Cretaceous period (136 million years ago), at a time when dinosaurs were at the height of their development.

Lake sturgeon are the only sturgeon species endemic to the Great Lakes basin and are the largest freshwater fish indigenous to that system.

The Black Lake research season began in early May 2014 when Michigan State University (MSU) and Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) researchers spotted a five-foot lake sturgeon ascending the Upper Black River upstream of the Sturgeon for Tomorrow Site B guarding area.

A total of 257 lake sturgeon were captured throughout the spawning season which ran from early May to early June. Gametes were collected from spawning lake sturgeon (34 crosses from 20 females) and were transported to the Streamside rearing facility for fertilization and rearing. Researchers noted no evidence of poaching this year for the second consecutive year. Expanded sturgeon guarding activities at additional locations over past years seem to have helped deter these incidents.

Researchers also captured wild larval lake sturgeon as they dispersed downstream. Previous research has found that these wild larvae represent the best stock source genetically, so these larvae are captured and brought back to the Streamside Rearing Facility in an effort to enhance survival of this unique stock source. This year researchers captured over 15,000 dispersing larvae during evening larval drift surveys.

During early August, MSU, MDNR, and tribal researchers conducted assessments in the Black River in an attempt to monitor natural recruitment of young-of-the-year lake sturgeon. This year, four young-of-the-year lake sturgeon were captured during these assessments, compared to zero that were captured last year.

Black Lake was stocked with 500 juvenile lake sturgeon, all tagged with PIT tags. On that same day, 478 were additionally stocked into Mullett Lake. Additionally, another 232 juvenile lake sturgeon were stocked into Mullett Lake on September 25th. For an ongoing research project, 300 juvenile lake sturgeon were stocked into both Tower Reservoir and Kleber Reservoir, as well as 54 age 1 sturgeon to each reservoir.

"Many of these stocking efforts were public events that shined a spotlight on how important lake sturgeon are to our state, "said DNR Fisheries Division Chief, Jim Dexter. "Michigan has a long history with the lake sturgeon and working with our partners helps us to move forward toward protecting them for the future."

The Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians (LTBB) also reared and released 677 Black Lake sturgeon fingerlings into the Sturgeon River (Burt Lake) on August 28, 2014.

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at

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