Lake Superior State University
Lake Sturgeon Press Release 2002
by John Shibley, LSSU Public Relations Office
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. - Big, lumbering, docile and, apparently, quite common in the St. Mary's River system. That's what Lake Superior State University's Aquatic Research Laboratory has discovered about lake sturgeon during a survey they've been conducting all summer under the auspices of Michigan's Department of Natural Resources. The effort, the first of its kind on the Michigan side of St. Mary's, carries over from work started last summer.
Lab staff set 10 marked set lines, each with 25 baited hooks, at 10-foot intervals along the American side of the St. Mary's. The lines get checked at least three times a week, sometimes every day. When lines are pulled there are, more often than not, sturgeon waiting. The fish do not swallow the bait hooks. They are measured, tagged, and released unharmed.
"This is what has surprised us the most," says Lab Manager Roger Greil, who supervises the work of four student assistants. "Not only have we collected and released almost 30 sturgeon, but the fish have been large, too - up to 55-plus pounds."
A big sturgeon is an old sturgeon, up to a record 150 years. Most of the fish caught by Lab workers have been around for decades, which means the St. Mary's might offer an ideal place for them to live and live a long time.
"Up until now we've only had stories about sturgeon in the river," says Greil. "This study gives us real numbers which biologists can use to figure out how many there are and where they live."
State laws prohibit fishermen from keeping any sturgeon they catch in the St. Mary's; the lab has a special permit to catch the fish for their study. LSSU's survey might continue moving south over the next few years to include still more areas of the St. Mary's river.
"We'll keep setting our lines in certain areas as long as we keep catching them," says Greil.
Depending on student help, this year's survey could carry into mid-October.
LSSU Aquatic Research Laboratory workers check a sturgeon trap line, as a floatplane lands behind them on the St. Mary's River.
Student workers Adam Nanninga, from Bowling Green, Ohio, right, and Sarah Gobler of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, haul in a 50-pound sturgeon for measurement and tagging. Looking on from the left is Lab Manager Roger Greil.
Greil and Nanninga maneuver a landed sturgeon into its cradle for tagging.
Nanninga and Gobler "inject" a magnetic tag into the fish, just below its thick skin, that can be read with a handheld electronic scanner.
Gobler and Nanninga carefully lower a sturgeon over the side of their boat after collecting data and implanting a tag.
A sturgeon swims off into the depths, no worse for the wear, probably to outlive us all.
Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon Website