Kalamazoo River Streamside Rearing Trailer Releases 2014 Year Class
BY DOUG ALOISI, GENOA NFH
Over 500 people attended an end of rearing season celebration which featured lake sturgeon as the stars of the show this past month. A sturgeon release ceremony hosted by the Kalamazoo River Streamside Rearing Partnership was held to commemorate another year class of sturgeon entering the river. The partnership consists of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Gun Lake Tribe, the Kalamazoo Chapter of Sturgeon for Tomorrow and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Green Bay Fisheries Office and the Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH).
Though the challenges of this year seemed daunting, which included cold temperatures and varying flows which challenged the egg and larvae collection, the streamside rearing trailer and its support crew still stocked a high percentage of the actual egg and larvae collected. The fish leaving the trailer averaged over 11 inches in length, large enough to avoid all but the largest predators. The fish are expected to remain in the River for only a short period of time before swimming downstream to Lake Michigan to live and grow for over two decades.
Then, as mature adults, the lake sturgeon will return to the Kalamazoo River in search of a mate and suitable habitat to lay their eggs. Biologists on the River are hoping to continue restoration efforts on the Kalamazoo River until a returning adult population consists of at least 750 returning adults of numerous year classes. This number including differing year classes will ensure there is a large enough number of fish with a large enough genetic contribution to sustain itself. Members of the Gun Lake Tribe entertained the large crowd with a drum ceremony and children present were allowed to release the fish into the river to begin their great journey home.
After the ceremony the trailer was broken down and whisked away to be cleaned up and used in Coregonid restoration efforts occurring on Lake Michigan this winter.