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Service personnel staff the lake sturgeon booth for Kalamazoo River release event. Photo by USFWS

Service personnel staff the lake sturgeon booth for the Kalamazoo River release event. Photo by USFWS.

Lake Sturgeons Released on the Kalamazoo River

This fall over 500 people attended a celebration featuring lake sturgeons as the stars of the show as they were released into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. A sturgeon release ceremony hosted by the Kalamazoo River Streamside Rearing Partnership was held to commemorate another year class of lake 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.

Though the challenges of this year seemed daunting, including cold temperatures and varying water 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 34 fish leaving the trailer averaged over 11 inches in length, which is considered big enough to avoid all but the largest predators.

The baby lake sturgeons reared in the streamside unit 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 the next two decades. As mature adults, they 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 adults from 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 the river’s lake sturgeon population.

The day of the fish release members of the Gun Lake Tribe entertained the large crowd with a drum ceremony. Children present were allowed to release the young fishes into the river to begin their great journey home. After the ceremony the streamside rearing trailer was broken down and whisked away to be cleaned and used in coregonid restoration efforts occurring on Lake Michigan this winter. Even as temperatures cool, the work continues!

By Doug Aloisi
Genoa National Fish Hatchery

A juvenile lake sturgeon by Katie Steiger-Meister/USFWS

A juvenile lake sturgeon by Katie Steiger-Meister/USFWS.

 

Last updated: November 5, 2014