Proceedings of the 2006 Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon Coordination Meeting

Lake Superior Basin

This meeting served as a Lake Superior Lake Sturgeon Work Group (LSWG) meeting. The LSWG receives guidance from the Lake Superior Technical Committee of the Lake Superior Committee.

Henry Quinlan (chair) and Jonathan Pyatskowit (USFWS), Tom Pratt (DFO), Amy Welsh (SUNY-Owsego), Brian Borkholder and Tom Howes (Fond du Lac Band), Nancy Auer (MTU), Mike Friday (OMNR), Seth Moore (Grand Portage Band), and Brian Gunderman (MIDNR).

Major Topics Covered:
Our agenda focused on brief updates and information exchange related to lake sturgeon activities by each organization represented. Specific topics included;

- Update on tasks from the Lake Superior Technical Committee
- Communication/Coordination
> > > Updates and activities of participants
- Sampling and population status updates to basin map and tables (since 2002)
- New Initiatives/Research
> > > PIT tag data submission and reader distribution
> > > Genetic Assignments

Discussion Summary:

Update on tasks from the LSTC
At the August 2006 meeting of the LSTC, Henry reported on the charge from the LSTC to assess the effects of the sea lamprey control program on lake sturgeon reproduction in Lake Superior. Age data from Wisconsin DNR and USFWS in Chequamegon Bay and the Bad River was utilized for the analysis. Our null hypothesis was that there was no difference in year class strength (mean number of fish in a year classes) in years the Bad River was treated with lampricide and in years no treatment occurred. To determine if treatments impacted reproduction/recruitment of lake sturgeon in the Bad River system we examined year class strength based on age interpretation of pectoral fin ray cross sections. Year class strength was the same (7.8 fish per year) in years of treatments and non-treatments. Additionally, age data indicated that there were lake sturgeon produced every year that treatments occurred in the Bad River. The Bad River is not a good case study for assessing the effects of TFM on lake sturgeon reproduction because the stream is always treated late in the year, after young-of-the-year lake sturgeon have passed the critical size of about 100 mm in length. Adequate lake sturgeon age data is not available for other streams, nor for a time frame that allows suitable evaluation of this charge. At this time the work group can’t say whether or not the sturgeon treatment protocol has had any effect on sturgeon.

Brian Borkolder and Tom Howes updated the committee on the Fond du Lac Band effort to restore lake sturgeon to the upper St. Louis River through egg stocking. A key change has been made with assistance from Michigan DNR to utilize lake sturgeon from the Sturgeon River, a tributary to Lake Superior. Stocking of within basin strains is consistent with the Lake Sturgeon Rehabilitation Plan for Lake Superior.

Seth Moore informed the LSWG that the Grand Portage Tribe was building a small hatchery to rear native fish including lake sturgeon. They have not yet identified a source of eggs. Grand Portage Tribe established an annual spring lake sturgeon assessment in Pigeon Bay using 10” mesh gill nets.

Mike Friday provided a handout on activities in the Kaministiquia River, Ontario. Mike is leading a multi-year study with Ontario Power to examine sturgeon spawning migrations and reproductive success during controlled flow conditions over historical spawning habitat. Minimum flows necessary for migration and larval drift have been documented at about 23 and 17 m3·s-1, respectively.

Henry Quinlan informed the LSWG of a cooperative effort among his office (USFWS) the Keweenaw Bay Band, Michigan DNR, and Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. They have modified the Canadian fall walleye index netting (FWIN) protocol to monitor juvenile lake sturgeon in Lake Superior near the mouth of the Ontonagon River, Michigan. Field crews captured about 40 fish in 2005.

Nancy Auer informed the committee of plans to establish a streamside rearing facility in the Ontonagon River. The project is a collaborative effort between Michigan DNR and Michigan Technological University.

Population status updates to basin map and tables (since 2002)
Topic not covered at this meeting

New Initiatives/Research
PIT Tag Assessment – The USFWS purchased PIT tag equipment with funds from the Great Lakes Fishery Trust and distributed it to individuals/organizations present at the meeting. In all, 20 agencies in Lake Superior will receive PIT tag equipment to help establish a standardized assessment process for lake sturgeon rehabilitation in Lake Superior. Henry described the process of submitting PIT tag numbers to the USFWS Alpena office for entry into the Great Lakes Tag Identification Database housed on the Great Lakes Fishery Commission web site.

Genetic Assignments of At-Large Sturgeon - Amy Welsh updated the LSWG on a project to assign lake sturgeon captured in the open waters of Lake Superior to their stream of origin. Amy is using genetic data from spawning populations (determined from tissue samples provided by many agencies) as a baseline to make assignments and explore movement of lake sturgeon. She evaluated data from 18 streams and grouped data from spawning streams that were indistinguishable. Thus far her work has shown that assignment test can be made with >80% likelihood.

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