2012 Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon Coordination Meeting
Dec. 3-4, 2012 Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783


 

Oral presentations

Day 1 - Monday, December 3, 2012

Estimating Lake Sturgeon Abundance and Other Parameters from Spawning Run Mark-Recapture Data

Edward Baker, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Marquette, MI
Shirley Pledger, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington New Zealand
Kim Scribner, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

Lake sturgeon population assessment in the Great Lakes remains a challenge due to low lake sturgeon
abundance, sampling difficulties in expansive Great Lakes open water habitats, propensities for
movements during prolonged inter-spawning intervals and the mixing of fish from different
populations in Great Lakes waters. The best opportunity to sample lake sturgeon from a Great Lakes
population is when the fish congregate in tributaries used for spawning. However, intermittent
spawning complicates abundance estimation when capture-recapture sampling is possible. Temporary
emigration models can be used when only a subset of the animals is present at any given sampling
effort. However, most temporary emigration models require the use of the robust sampling design
whereby secondary samples are collected, and their focus is usually on estimating probabilities of
annual survival and transition between states (e.g. breeding and non-breeding). We have used our 11
year dataset of spawning run mark-recapture data from the Black River, MI to develop a novel
likelihood-based temporary emigration model which yields plausible estimates of abundance, survival,
transition and return time parameters and explicitly accounts for the intermittent spawning behavior
of lake sturgeon. The new model also allows for model selection with information criteria (e.g. AIC).
Our data reveal that abundance is overestimated if a Jolly-Seber type model is used with spawning run
mark-recapture for lake sturgeon. We describe the utility of the new model under different sampling
scenarios representing likely assessment options for managers.


Evaluating Harvest Regulations for Lake Sturgeon in the White Rapids Section of the Menominee River

Daniel Isermann, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, WI

Portions of the Menominee River that borders the states of Wisconsin and Michigan have supported
recreational fisheries for lake sturgeon for decades. However, implementing harvest regulations that
ensure the sustainability of these lake sturgeon stocks has been difficult. Our objective was to
determine if population demographics and spawning potential ratios of lake sturgeon in the White
Rapids section of the Menominee River vary under a range of different harvest regulations (e.g.,
minimum length limits, slot-length limits, harvest tags). We are currently using age-structured
population models to assess population responses to the different regulations. Our goal is to provide
fishery managers with better information regarding the selection of harvest regulations for this and
other lake sturgeon populations.


Lake Superior and Lake Huron Juvenile Lake Sturgeon Index Survey

Joshua Schloesser, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ashland, WI
Lloyd Mohr, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Owen Sound, ON

In 2011 and 2012, juvenile lake sturgeon index surveys were developed for Lake Superior and Lake
Huron, respectively, to meet assessment needs identified in rehabilitation plans. The objectives were
to determine the status, index relative abundance, and describe the biological characteristics of lake
sturgeon in Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Surveys were conducted at the river mouths of known
historic and current spawning tributaries. Over 20 agencies and universities collaborated to
implement these surveys during June-September each year. Biological data collected on lake sturgeon
included length, weight, girth, an age sample, genetic sample, and all fish were given an external Floy
and internal Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag. Mean relative abundance (number per 1000
feet of net) on Lake Superior was 1.5 (range 0.0 - 6.5) lake sturgeon. Biological models, such as length
frequencies, age class strength, quantile regression of length-weight, and von Bertalanffy growth will
be compared among tributaries and lakes to assess population health. These were the first
assessments in a long-term coordinated lake-wide effort to monitor recruitment, year class strength,
and population trends over time.


Adult assessment – Are We Using Proper Gears?

Nancy Auer, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI

Brief discussion of some findings from summer 2012 in an effort to capture adult (large sturgeon) and
the lack of success using the 8-10 inch gill netting suggested in survey protocol.


Demographic Factors and Male Behavioral Plasticity Affect Male and Female Reproduction Success
and Temporal Variation in Effective Breeding Number in Lake Sturgeon

Kim Scribner1, Yen Thuy Duong1, James Crossman1, Patrick Forsythe1, Edward Baker2
1Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
2Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Marquette MI

Quantifying inter-annual variation in effective adult breeding number (Nb) and relationships between
Nb, effective population size (Ne), adult census size (N) and population demographic characteristics are
important to predict genetic changes in populations of conservation concern. Such relationships are
rarely available for long-lived iteroparous species like lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens). We
estimated annual Nb and generational Ne using genotypes from 12 microsatellite loci for lake sturgeon
adults (n=796) captured during 8 spawning seasons and offspring (n=3,925) collected during larval
dispersal in a closed population over 10 years. Inbreeding and variance Nb derived using multiple
estimators were similar within and among years (inter-annual range of Nb: 41-205). Variance in
reproductive success and unequal sex ratios reduced Nb relative to N on average 36.8% and 16.3%,
respectively. Inter-annual variation in Nb/N ratios (0.27 - 0.86) resulted from stable N and low
standardized variance in reproductive success due to high proportions of adults breeding and the
species’ polygamous mating system, despite a 40-fold difference in annual larval production across
years (437 – 16,417). Results indicated environmental conditions and features of the species’
reproductive ecology interact to affect demographic parameters and Nb/N. Ne may not be
approximated as the product of average annual Nb and generation length (g). Therefore, supplemental
breeding programs would be ill advised to divide the targeted Ne into a series of (g) annual target
effective numbers (Nb). Results have important implications for genetic monitoring and conservation
planning for lake sturgeon and other species with similar life histories and mating systems.


Spatially Explicit Analysis of Lake Sturgeon Egg Deposition and Mortality in Natural Stream Settings

Andrew Findley1, Patrick Forsythe2, Kim Scribner2,3, James Crossman3, and Edward Baker4
1Department of Forestry, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
2Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
3Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
4Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Marquette MI

Managers are interested in estimating recruitment in natural lake sturgeon populations and
associations between features of the stream physical environment and egg abundance, distribution
and loss. Understanding effects of ecological processes during critical life stages in structurally
complex and spatially dynamic river systems necessitates use of spatial models that can account for
spatial autocorrelation in dependent variables and environmental covariates.

Using data collected over multiple years and spawning sites on the Black River, MI, we apply novel
Bayesian methods that incorporate parameters to account for spatial autocorrelated variables and
anisotropic dependencies to estimate egg abundance and loss. Data on environmental covariates
(water depth, water velocity, and substrate size) were collected at four spawning locations concurrent
with surveys of egg deposition. Secondary sampling of eggs was conducted three days following the
initial sample to quantify differences in egg number and live/dead status. A total of 9,426 eggs were
collected across all spawning locations from 655 kick net samples. We found strong anisotropic
patterns in spatial dependence in egg deposition and with parameter estimates associated with the
stream covariates. The presence of residual spatial autocorrelation violates an assumption of the nonspatial
models, leading to erroneous estimates of the regression coefficients associated with the
stream covariates, inaccurate extrapolations of collection numbers to total deposition estimates, and
incorrect prediction of rates of egg loss. Previous studies typically fail to account for spatial
dependency in dependent variables (e.g., egg counts) and stream environmental variables, and thus
results and applicability of findings to management are suspect.


How Diet and Collection Methods Affect the Mortality of Dispersed Acipenser fulvescens Larvae within
a Streamside Rearing Facility

Philip D. Ganz1, Nathan T. Barton1, Kim T. Scribner1, and Edward A. Baker2
1Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
2Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Marquette MI

Hatcheries, including streamside facilities, have been widely used to moderate high mortality rates
early in life for many fish species, including lake sturgeon. Lake sturgeon streamside rearing facilities
obtain sturgeon through three modes: naturally produced eggs (NPE), direct gamete takes (DGT), and
dispersing larvae (DL). Of these sources, DL are the most genetically diverse, making them a valuable
resource for population rehabilitation. However, DL have the highest mortality within a streamside
rearing facility, most of which occurs in the first two weeks following collection. We hypothesized that
mortality could be attributed to one or both of two factors. Our first hypothesis was that DL have
begun to feed exogenously before dispersing, develop a search image for wild food sources, and fail to
transition to hatchery feed (Artemia spp.). Our second hypothesis was that high DL mortality could
result from handling stress during capture (e.g., time in nets, water velocity, amount of debris in nets).
We fed DL two diets: a standard hatchery diet of live Artemia nauplii only and live Artemia nauplii
supplemented with filtrate from the natal river. Using a general linear model, we quantified the
relative effects of hatchery diet and field variables with cumulative mortality over 14 days in the
hatchery. DL fed Artemia and filtrate realized an 11% higher survival rate than DL fed only Artemia.
We observed no significant influence of collection factors on mortality. Data suggest that dietary
modification that includes naturally occurring organic matter can significantly increase DL survival
within streamside hatcheries.


Ecological Conditions Experienced During Early Larval Stages Affect Larval Lake Sturgeon Phenotypes
and Behavior

Kathleen Jay1, Kim T. Scribner1 and Jeanette McGuire2
1Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824
2Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

Plasticity in expression of phenotypes and behaviors during early ontogenetic stages results from both
genetic and environmental effects. Newly-hatched lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) larvae
immediately burrow in substrate and exhibit considerable plasticity in timing of emergence. We
quantified the effects of environmental conditions (food, predators, conspecific density),
temperature, substrate, phenotype and family on the duration of time from hatch to emergence.
Eggs (n=400) were incubated at 10°C or 18°C, and hatched larvae were placed into cups with substrate
and maintained in ambient stream temperature and constant velocity. Time to emergence was
recorded in days and cumulative temperature units. Significant (p<0.01) univariate predictors of
emergence time included incubation temperature, growth, loss of yolk-sac, substrate, and degree of
temperature deviance. Larvae emerged significantly earlier in treatments of high conspecific density
and chemosensory predators cues. Models of best fit for emergence time included a three-way
interaction among incubation temperature, treatment, and degree of temperature deviance, as well
as an additive effect of percent loss of yolk-sac. Collectively, data revealed physical and biotic
conditions at the time of emergence and prior conditions during incubation affected emergence time.
Plasticity in response to these conditions likely affects survival and recruitment at individual and
population levels, respectively.


Phenotypic Responses to Anthropogenically Altered Environmental Regimes in Larval Lake Sturgeon
(Acipenser fulvescens)

Kari Dammerman, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

Human disturbances have altered natural environments and disrupted selection regimes across all
biological scales. Organisms likely respond to anthropogenic changes through modifications in
genotypic composition and through phenotypic and/or behavioral plasticity. We predicted that larval
phenotypes (body size) and behavior (timing of larval emergence) would vary among families in
anthropogenically-modified habitats. Additionally, we predicted that the degree of developmental
plasticity would be dictated by the environmental conditions experienced during each ontogenetic
stage. Experiments were conducted using a well-studied population of lake sturgeon (Acipenser
fulvescens), a long-lived exploited species of conservation concern in the Black River of Michigan.
Fertilized eggs were incubated at spawning locations characterized by different thermal and flow
regimes. To mimic dam-mediated flow conditions, fertilized eggs were also exposed to one of three
flow treatments (high, low, and variable) within our stream-side facility. All individuals from both
experiments were photographed at hatch, placed in individual incubation chambers within the facility,
and photographed again at emergence to quantify larval traits including timing of transitions between
ontogenetic stages. General linear mixed-models and known pedigree information were used to test
for family, treatment, and family by treatment interactions for each trait. We found significant
evidence for all three effects in traits in both experiments. The proportion of phenotypic variance
attributed to genetic (family) effects (heritability) was estimated to range from 0.42-0.48. Our results
indicate that individuals from different families differ in their response to environmental conditions
demonstrating that anthropogenically-modified environments have the potential to alter population
phenotypic distributions and genetic composition.

Day 2 - Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Streamside Rearing Facilities - Are we Meeting Biological and Cultural Objectives?

Marty Holtgren, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Manistee, MI

For 9 years the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians have operated a streamside rearing facility for lake
sturgeon. To evaluate the effectiveness of the tribe’s streamside rearing both biological and cultural
criteria must be considered. This presentation will describe how biological and cultural goals were
intertwined in the tribe’s sturgeon stewardship plan and if these goals are being met.


First Nations Leading Lake Sturgeon Research in Ontario by Combining Traditional Knowledge with
Scientific Research; A Case Study from Northeastern Lake Superior

Andrew Ecclestone, Anishinabek/Ontario Fisheries Resource Centre

The Anishinabek/Ontario Fisheries Resource Centre (A/OFRC) is a non-profit organization that works
with member First Nations of the Union of Ontario Indians (UOI), in regards to fisheries assessment
and management. We function as an independent source of information that is recognized and
trusted by First Nations, governments, and other stakeholders. First Nations throughout Ontario have
significant knowledge of and cultural ties to Lake Sturgeon, particularly those First Nations whose
territorial boundaries border the Great Lakes basin. Of the 38 First Nations that make up the UOI, 25
border the Great Lakes basin (mainly Lake Huron and Lake Superior) and 4 border watersheds that
support Lake Sturgeon populations. Since 1999, the A/OFRC has partnered with 12 of these First
Nations to complete a total of 45 Lake Sturgeon research projects within the Great Lakes basin. These
projects varied from spring spawning assessments, to open water netting, telemetry tagging and
monitoring, critical habitat classification, and traditional ecological knowledge studies. In northeastern
Lake Superior, the A/OFRC has worked in partnership with 3 First Nations, provincial and federal
government agencies, and universities to gather traditional ecological knowledge and design scientific
research projects that combine netting, radio telemetry, and habitat assessments on three spawning
tributaries (Pic River, White River, and Michipicoten River). Results from these studies have identified
and assessed critical habitat, estimated population abundance and characteristics, monitored
movement patterns and environmental cues, and engaged communities in monitoring Lake Sturgeon
populations within their traditional territories. Given the success of these projects, the A/OFRC
believes that greater consultation and representation needs to be given to First Nations from
government agencies to ensure that their views and knowledge are meaningfully incorporated into
Lake Sturgeon decision making processes.


Sturgeon For Tomorrow: Our Journey With the Majestic Lake Sturgeon

Brenda Archambo, Sturgeon For Tomorrow, Cheboygan, MI


Commercial Fishers Connection to Lake Sturgeon

Tim Purdy, Purdy Fisheries, Sarnia, ON


Magnitude of Effect of Hydro-electric Operations on Lake Sturgeon Abundance in Ontario Rivers

Tim Haxton, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Peterborough, ON

Dams and lake sturgeon have a long history, which has been extended within the last century to
hydro-electric facilities. Given the migratory nature of lake sturgeon, dams generally have an adverse
effect on their populations. These effects can be exacerbated at hydro-electric facilities as flows and
water levels are dramatically and frequently altered. Qualitatively, the effects of hydro-electric facility
operations on lake sturgeon are generally known. However, despite the elongated history between
the two, these effects have not been quantified (i.e., how much are lake sturgeon affected). The
objective of this study was to ascertain the magnitude of effect (d) different hydro-electric facility
operating regimes have on lake sturgeon abundance. Also, it was to quantify the effectiveness of
remedial actions intended to offset these effects. A standardized index netting program was
conducted throughout Ontario in unimpounded rivers and rivers managed as run-of-the-river, peaking
and winter reservoir systems. Overall, 23 rivers were assessed in three Ministry of Natural Resources
Administration Regions and a total of 362 lake sturgeon were sampled. The magnitude of effect of the
hydro-electric facilities on lake sturgeon abundance was quantified as large (i.e., d = 0.8). Partitioned
among water management regime types, this effect was lowest on run-of-the-river systems and
greatest on both peaking and winter reservoir systems. Adults appear to be most affected in peaking
systems whereas the magnitude of effect for juveniles was lowest in run-of-the-river systems. Despite
the potential adverse effects of dams on lake sturgeon, only two hydro-electric facilities in Ontario
have employed remedial actions to mitigate effects for this species. A spawning shoal was constructed
downstream of Chenaux Generating Station on the Ottawa River in December 2008, however the
effectiveness of this project would not yet be detectable at the time of this study. Flow augmentation
during the spawning period was employed in the Kaministiquia River from 2004 – 2011. The
magnitude of effect on the sturgeon population in that system was considerably less than observed
for peaking systems suggesting that the management actions employed benefited lake sturgeon,
specifically juveniles. However, this only represents one location. Additional mitigation and monitoring
would be required to ascertain the true effectiveness of remedial actions for lake sturgeon on
regulated rivers in the province.


Hydrokinetic Generation in the Great Lakes Basin

Paul T. Jacobson, Ph.D., Electric Power Research Institute, Glenelg, Maryland

Technologies are emerging to capture energy from unimpounded streams and rivers. EPRI has
estimated that roughly 10 GWhe/yr is technically recoverable by hydrokinetic technologies in the U.S.
portion of the Great Lakes Basin, although an unknown portion of that is practically recoverable.
Additional hydrokinetic resource exists in Canadian portions of the Great Lakes Basin. Hydrokinetic
technology is relatively immature and diverse, and it is not yet clear which technologies will prove to
be the most reliable, cost-effective, and environmentally sound. Environmental effects are expected
to be relatively small compared to those of conventional hydropower; however, impacts will depend
on system design, siting, and scale of project deployment. Prediction of project-level impacts is
challenging because of the novelty of the technology, although useful tools and information are
accruing. Mathematical modeling, laboratory studies, and field studies are all needed to predict and
assess impacts, and progress is being made in each of these areas. Well-designed and wellimplemented
active adaptive management will be critically important to the permitting, licensing, and
operation of hydrokinetic projects.


St. Claire River Hydrokinetic Proposal Update

Jim Boase, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Waterford, MI


Blade Strike Survival and Hydrokinetic Turbine Passage: Results of Testing with White Sturgeon and
Applicability to Other Species

Steve Amaral, Alden Research Laboratory, Inc., Holden, MA
Paul Jacobson, Ph.D., Electric Power Research Institute, Glenelg, MD

The installation and operation of hydrokinetic turbines in riverine habitats may impact local and
migratory fish populations. One of the primary concerns associated with hydrokinetic projects is the
potential for fish to be struck and injured or killed by turbine blades. With funding from the Electric
Power Research Institute and the U.S. Department of Energy, we conducted laboratory evaluations of
turbine blade strike mortality and fish entrainment through hydrokinetic turbines. The blade strike
studies were conducted with trout and sturgeon and evaluated survival and injury for various fish
lengths, blade leading edge thicknesses, and strike velocities. The resulting data set allows for blade
strike mortality rates to be estimated for most teleost species and sturgeons for a wide range of
turbine designs and operating conditions for both conventional hydro and hydrokinetic units. Flume
testing with three hydrokinetic turbine designs provided survival and behavioral data for fish
approaching and passing through the blade sweep of each unit. These tests include an evaluation of
white sturgeon juveniles with an axial-flow ducted turbine. The results of these studies have
produced valuable data that can be used to assess the potential for fish to be entrained and injured
when encountering hydrokinetic turbines in the field.


The Effect of the Lampricides TFM and TFM/1% Niclosamide on Age-0 Lake Sturgeon

Lisa O’Conner, Department of Fisheries and Oceans – Canada, Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Between 2010 and 2011, 9 rivers tributary to Lakes Superior, Huron, and Michigan were treated with
the lampricide TFM or TFM/ 1% niclosamide. 20 cages were distributed throughout the lampricide
treated section of river containing age-0 lake sturgeon ranging in size from 25 – 120 mm. Lake
sturgeon ranging in size from 35 – 120 mm survived the lampricide application. Total lake sturgeon
survival ranged from 45 to 100%, with 89% of the rivers having 60% or better survival. Overall, lake
sturgeon of smaller size than predicted by Boogaard et al (2006) survived in all 9 lampricide
treatments.


Sea Lamprey Parasitism on Lake Sturgeon in Great Lakes

Henry Quinlan, Rob Elliott, Betsy Trometer, and Justin Chiotti, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Tom Pratt and William Gardner, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Mike Friday and Lloyd Mohr, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
Andrew Ecclestone, Anishinabek/Ontario Fisheries Resource Center

Fishery agencies across the Great Lakes have identified rehabilitation of lake sturgeon as an important
component of stable, diverse fish communities. Despite ongoing efforts to rehabilitate lake sturgeon,
Great Lakes populations were recently listed as threatened by the Province of Ontario and are being
considered for listing by Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Sea lamprey, a non-native
parasitic fish now prevalent in the Great Lakes are believed to influence lake sturgeon recovery
through parasitism of sub-adult (ages 5-15) and adult (ages >15) lake sturgeon. We examined the
prevalence and severity of sea lamprey marks on lake sturgeon populations from several locations in
each basin throughout the Great Lakes. Our findings indicate that parasitism by sea lamprey on Great
Lakes lake sturgeon is generally low. However, reporting of sea lamprey marks on lake sturgeon and
utilization of the recently published dichotomous key for classification of sea lamprey marks on lake
sturgeon is inconsistent. Expansion of the analysis to other key locations is necessary to develop a
lake-wide perspective on the influence of sea lamprey attacks on lake sturgeon rehabilitation efforts.


LUNCH


Effects of Stocking on the Genetic Diversity of Lake Sturgeon

Amy Welsh, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WA

Our objective was to assess the genetic diversity of stocked lake sturgeon using neutral and adaptive
genetic markers. Two stocked locations were studied: Oneida Lake, NY and the Menominee River,
MI/WI. At Oneida Lake, two stocking scenarios were used: a single large-scale stocking from one
source, and a multi-year stocking from a different source. Using twelve microsatellite loci, we
evaluated whether stocking over multiple years increased the genetic diversity and effective
population size of the resulting offspring. The resulting stocked population from multi-year stocking
was less genetically different from the source population with similar levels of genetic diversity.
However, the single-year stocking event had lower genetic diversity than its source population,
resulting in those offspring being very different from their source population. Despite better genetic
representation, the multi-year stocking program resulted in a very low effective population size, likely
due to high variance in family sizes. At the Menominee River, stocked sturgeon were used to
supplement an existing population. Using both neutral (microsatellite loci) and adaptive markers
(MHC), rare alleles were not represented in the hatchery-produced offspring. Hatchery- and wildproduced
offspring were genetically differentiated at neutral loci but did not differ at the adaptive
loci, indicating that strong selection may eliminate genetic differences between hatchery and wild fish.
Both studies show that stocking practices can reduce the genetic diversity of fish populations,
primarily by inadequate representation of alleles in the source population.


Lake Sturgeon Sampling Efforts in the Pennsylvania Waters of Lake Erie

Jeanette Schnars, Tom Ridge Environmental Center, Erie, PA

Historically, Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) have been known to inhabit Lake Erie along the
shores of Erie County, Pennsylvania. Presently, there are few sightings annually many of which are not
reported. This project has started an effort to routinely sample for Lake Sturgeon, determine optimal
habitat through side-scan sonar, and create public awareness to formalize reporting. Sampling by
baited set lines has been conducted during the 2011 and 2012 seasons in hopes of collecting fin clips
for genetic analysis. Presently, no Lake Sturgeon have been caught. Side-scan sonar data was
collected during the 2012 season to determine if optimal habitat still exists where Lake Sturgeon once
spawned. Finally, outreach of the project through watch cards and posters has increased awareness
to formalize live/dead Lake Sturgeon sightings along the Pennsylvania Lake Erie coastline. This twoyear
project has been funded by the Pennsylvania Coastal Zone Management program and efforts will
continue through the 2013 season.


Using Concentrations of Metals in Pectoral Fin Rays to Track Movements and Improve Management of
Lake Sturgeon Populations in the Great Lakes Basin

Jeffrey Ziegeweid, USGS Minnesota Water Science Center, Mounds View, MN

The complex, migratory life history of sturgeons complicates management and restoration efforts of
lake sturgeon populations, and proposed Asian carp control barriers may further complicate sturgeon
management efforts by prevent migration of sturgeon between critical habitats. Therefore,
understanding the migratory patterns of lake sturgeon populations is essential to sustaining lake
sturgeon populations. I propose to reconstruct the migratory history of individual sturgeon by using
laser ablation inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA ICP-MS) to relate concentrations of
metals in annuli of pectoral fin rays to concentrations of metals from different water bodies.
Strontium and barium have been used successfully to identify movements of other fish species
between areas with distinct water chemistries, and manganese has been used to identify exposure of
fish to hypoxic conditions. The LA ICP-MS method requires less time and money than traditional
telemetry methods, and fin rays can be collected without invasive surgery procedures. Furthermore,
the complete migratory history of an individual sturgeon can be obtained without sacrificing the fish.
Several sturgeon management issues could be addressed, particularly the identification of critical
nursery habitats and the timing of migrations between habitat types. The effectiveness of the LA ICPMS
method can be validated using telemetry data, and pectoral fin ray sampling could be
incorporated into existing sturgeon sampling programs with minimal additional costs. The USGS has
the laboratory capabilities to analyze water samples and fin ray cross-sections using ICP-MS
technology. I am looking for interested collaborators with available pectoral fin rays, capture
information, and possibly telemetry data.


New York Lake Sturgeon Recovery Program

Doug Carlson, NY Department of Environmental Conservation, Watertown, NY

Lake sturgeon has been among the charter members of New York’s endangered or threatened species
list, and there have been many gains for the species in 20 years. A stocking program began in 1993
with objectives of making the species not so narrowly confined to the large border waters of the state.
Among the most significant gains are: 1) the border waters improving as places for lake sturgeon, 2)
studies showing places and ways that sturgeon are doing well and 3) the favorable survival and growth
of stocked sturgeon in the most depleted areas. A partnership between state, federal and academic
organizations has been responsible for the steady progress and accumulation of information.


Lake Sturgeon Migration in the Detroit-St. Clair River System: Preliminary Results from an Acoustic
Telemetry Study

Darryl Hondorp, U.S. Geological Survey, Ann Arbor, MI

Early in 2012, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission in conjunction with federal, state, and provincial
partners initiated a study of the population spatial structure of lake sturgeon that spawn in the
Detroit-St. Clair River system in order to provide much needed information on habitat use by different
sturgeon populations as well as on population-scale movements and dispersal patterns at ecologicallyrelevant
temporal scales. From April to early June 2012, spawning-condition adult lake sturgeon were
captured in the Detroit R., lower St. Clair R., and upper St. Clair R., implanted with high-power acoustic
tags with a battery life of 10 years, and then released near the capture site. Sturgeon movements
between spawning, overwintering, and feeding grounds were then tracked using a network of
strategically-located acoustic receivers. The goals of our presentation are 1) to communicate the
goals, objectives, and expected results of this new project, and 2) to present preliminary results
related to study objective #1, which was to determine whether dispersal of spawning-condition lake
sturgeon in the Detroit and St. Clair rivers depends on release site.


Translocation and Telemetry of Pre-spawning Lake Sturgeon in an Upper Reach of the Menominee
River

Jeremy Olach, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI

In spring of 2012, twelve pre-spawning sturgeon were tagged and translocated from one impounded
each on the Menominee River to another impounded reach upstream. The sturgeon were implanted
with Vemco transmitters and then tracked with both stationary and mobile receivers to determine
whether they would travel upstream to use the historic spawning site at the top of the study reach.
Within 8 days of translocation, seven of the twelve sturgeon were detected at the top of the 39 rkm
study reach, where spawning activity was also observed. The study supports the idea that the
impounded population of sturgeon dwelling downstream would utilize a historical spawning site after
having no access to the site for over 60 years.


Adult Lake Sturgeon Movements on the Large Rivers of Green Bay, Lake Michigan

Micheal Donofrio, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Peshtigo, WI
Kim Scribner, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Robert Elliott, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Green Bay, WI
Edward Baker, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Marquette, MI
Brian Sloss, Wisconsin Cooperative Fishery Research Unit, University of Wisconsin, Steven’s Point, WI

Spawning river fidelity of lake sturgeon is difficult to assign considering the relatively long interspawning
intervals and the complexity of conducting assessments on large water bodies with multiple
spawning rivers, like Green Bay. In addition, movement patterns of adult sturgeon are likely impacted
due to a relatively small population size compared to historic estimates (< 1%) and hydroelectric dams
on most rivers which have altered spawning behavior.

Green Bay lake sturgeon have been genotyped (N=907) and indirectly assigned to assumed spawning
river groups (Menominee, Peshtigo-Oconto, and Fox-Wolf); but direct tagging studies have indicated
mixing of adult sturgeon between genetically assigned spawning rivers. Using acoustic telemetry, we
observed the movements of adult lake sturgeon (N=83) into five Green Bay rivers (Cedar, Menominee,
Peshtigo, Oconto, and Fox). Acoustic receivers allowed us to identify seasonal and directional
movement patterns of these sturgeon for multiple years. We identified that most (57%) of the
sturgeon tagged within or adjacent to the mouth of one of three rivers (Menominee, Peshtigo, and
Oconto) were only detected in the river where they were originally tagged. However, it was common
(19%) to detect implanted sturgeon in more than one river. No detections occurred with the Cedar
and Fox river receivers, so we have no evidence that these sturgeon from the Menominee, Peshtigo
and Oconto rivers used the former rivers.

A significant group (24%) of the lake sturgeon were not detected post-surgery which may be related to
long inter-spawning intervals and a three year battery life of the original transmitters. We did not find
any correlation between size or sex of the sturgeon as an explanation of movement. We are not able
to confirm that upstream movements in April and May of each year was associated with spawning
activity, since acoustic receivers were located downstream of known spawning sites. Movements were
routinely detected during both spawning and non-spawning seasons; but most fish were only detected
for a few days to weeks in the subject rivers and occupied the greater Green Bay waters for the
remainder of the year. Genotypic assignments can corroborate that implanted fish originated from the
rivers where they were tagged; but it appears from our acoustic telemetry data that mixing of these
spawning stocks occurred during spring spawning periods.


Juvenile Stocked Lake Sturgeon Movements on Menominee River

Micheal Donofrio, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Peshtigo, WI

The Menominee River is a boundary water between Michigan and Wisconsin. This river is known for
its abundant lake sturgeon population and most populations have persisted despite the construction
of several hydroelectric dams over the last nearly 100 years. Sustained, landlocked populations exist in
the lower 50 miles of river but the section from Sturgeon Falls dam to Chalk Hills dam (20 miles) was
recognized as an area where lake sturgeon have been extirpated. The Menominee river has been open
to hook and line fishing since 1946 and the states have maintained a mandatory registration system
since 1983. Anglers have not reported catching sturgeon in this section of the river. Wisconsin
Department of Natural Resources has stocked juvenile lake sturgeon in the Menominee River for over
30 years in an attempt to restore an extirpated population. Despite the fact that over 90,000 fingerling
and yearling sturgeon have been stocked in this river, periodic electrofishing surveys and spawning
site observations have yielded relatively few sturgeon. Since the fin clips have been speculated to
regenerate on lake sturgeon and these fish have not been entirely marked with PIT tags, the fate of
stocked fish is unknown. It’s believed these fish either don’t survive after stocking, migrate
downstream of this river section, or the stocking numbers have been too low to make a significant
impact on the fishery.

In an attempt to determine the fate of stocked sturgeon, WDNR implanted 50 ultrasonic transmitters
into two groups of stocked, juvenile lake sturgeon. These 50 fish were stocked on two events (summer
and fall) with 950 other non-tagged lake sturgeon. Their downstream movement was monitored by
multiple stationary receivers for several months. There was a significant difference in the movement
patterns of these two groups. No sturgeon were detected leaving this section of the river. The
conclusions of this study will impact the stocking strategy for this species.


Maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service | Webmaster