Preliminary Proceedings of the 2008 Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon Coordination Meeting

Abstracts - Poster Presentations

Video Assessment (using scientific divers and under water video) of the Belle Isle lake sturgeon artificial spawning bed complex

Jeffrey D. Allen, M.G. Black, G.W. Kennedy, M.A. Blouin, B.A. Manny
US Geological Survey – Great Lakes Science Center, Ann Arbor, MI

The Detroit River, Belle Isle lake sturgeon artificial spawning reef complex was constructed in June 2004. The complex consists of 3 beds each roughly 371.5 m2 in size, and 0.6 m thick. Material used differed for each bed and consisted, by downstream order, of limestone quarry rock (40 – 60 cm dia.), rounded cobble (15 – 25 cm dia.), and coal cinders (2 – 7 cm dia.). Fisheries assessment began in the spring of 2004, before construction of the reef complex, and continued every fall and spring until 2008. Along with the fisheries assessment, annual underwater video surveys were conducted using scientific divers to document infilling of reef void space, colonization by zebra mussels and goby, and to provide direct evidence of egg deposition. Although lake sturgeon have been documented within the Detroit River system, specifically the capture of two at Belle Isle during the spring spawning migration, as yet no direct evidence of sturgeon egg deposition at the site has been documented. However, spawning activity by non-target species has shown a progressive increase in utilization of the complex as a spawning ground, and reef preference by various species has been observed. Assessment of the underwater video taken between the reef complex construction in 2004, and summer 2008 indicate a maturation pattern in sediment load infilling on these reefs. This combination of assessment techniques could give further insights into the development of protocols for future construction of artificial spawning bed complexes for sturgeon and other valued species such as lake whitefish and walleye.


Recruitment and movement patterns of lake sturgeon in the Muskegon River system

Matthew Altenritter, Grand Valley State University, Annis Water Resources Institute, Muskegon, MI

We will be presenting data on four objectives of our study of the early life history of lake sturgeon in a remnant population inhabiting the Muskegon River system. Objectives of this study are to: 1) estimate the abundance of spawning adults in the system, 2) locate spawning sites in the Muskegon River, 3) assess spawning success by collecting drift samples in the river, and 4) track the movement of juvenile lake sturgeon to determine residence and habitat preferences in Muskegon Lake. Our poster will outline the research plan for this 2-year study and present preliminary data from the first year of this on-going project.


Genetic Study of Lake Sturgeon in the St. Mary’s River System

Jessica Comben and Barbara Evans, Department of Biology, Lake Superior State University, Sault Sainte Marie MI

Though the St. Marys River has been a historic spawning site for lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens), they were thought to no longer be present in the system. In 2000, two lake sturgeon were observed in the St. Marys River system by the LSSU Aquatic Research Lab. These were thought to be migratory individuals, as no spawning site had been identified in recent times. Since that time, 196 individuals have been identified with an approximate 20% recapture rate. An ongoing radiotelemetry study of 19 tagged fish suggests that many of these fish may be year round residents of the system. The objective of this study is to assign or exclude the St. Marys lake sturgeon from populations in Lakes Superior and Huron using microsatellite DNA analyses. We hypothesize that although some of the fish may be migratory from either Superior or Huron, many individuals may be spawning within the St. Marys system. Preliminary results suggest that there is a resident population with few migratory individuals. The St. Marys River is very suitable for lake sturgeon rehabilitation, thus an understanding of the genetics of resident, potentially spawning populations, is essential for future management decisions.


Successful stepping stones to sex identification of lake sturgeon by blood plasma hormones

Jaquie Craig, US Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science Center, Ann Arbor, MI

Blood samples were collected from lake sturgeon caught during spawning season from the North Channel of the St. Clair River to determine if sex could be identified by enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay (ELSIA) and radioimmunoassay (RIA) using reagents from the white sturgeon, for which reagents were readily available. Twelve fish were releasing gametes at time of capture, which helped to verify our results. We concluded that sex identification of pre-spawning lake sturgeon adults was possible, but that post-spawn adults or juvenile lake sturgeon were not able to be sexed confidently. This was due to the naturally low levels of circulating hormones at these stages. Results of this study were encouraging enough to move forward so that antibodies and reagents specific to lake sturgeon are currently being developed.


Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) Migration Patterns in Pic River, Ontario - view poster (2.41 MB pdf)

Caroline Deary, Anishinabek/Ontario Fisheries Resource Centre, North Bay, ON

Although lake sturgeon are known to inhabit the Pic River, there is limited knowledge of the population and its critical habitat use. The Anishinabek/Ontario Fisheries Resource Centre collaborated with Pic River First Nation to assess the Pic River lake sturgeon population and identify critical habitat and fish movements through the use of radio-telemetry. The primary objective of the study was to target the spawning population and confirm potential spawning sites identified by community elders. Forty-seven lake sturgeon were captured between 31 May 2008 and 14 August 2008 using large mesh gill nets, set within a 25 km section of the river mouth. In addition, 18 sturgeon were captured in the vicinity of Kagiano Falls – the furthest upstream barrier to migration, a distance of approximately 100 km from the river mouth – in a collaborative study conducted by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Twenty five adult lake sturgeon (mean total length 116.3 cm ± 15.0 S.D.) were radio-tagged – 8 with external attachments and 17 with internal tags. Lake sturgeon were measured for fork length, total length, girth and weight, a section of the left pectoral fin ray was removed for ageing purposes and a fin punch sample was taken for genetic analysis. Captured fish also received an external FLOY tag and an internal PIT tag. Radio-tagged fish were monitored using a combination of fixed automated receiver stations and manual tracking from a boat beginning from the time of tag attachment or implantation, through to the late fall when the majority of sturgeon had left the river.


Success of Stocked Sturgeon in an Unexpected System

Dawn Dittman, US Geological Survey, Tunison Laboratory of Aquatic Science, Cortland NY

As part of an ongoing program to restore lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) in New York, hatchery-produced juveniles have been stocked into Oneida and Cayuga lakes since 1995. Migration of these fish into the Seneca, Oneida and Oswego Rivers (Oswego River system / Erie Canal) has been documented and local populations appear to be accumulating in the system. The Erie Canal/Oswego River system consists largely of the highly altered barge canal system, with homogenous habitat maintained by regular dredging, numerous lock and dam structures, and degraded water quality. The canal system offers a suite of habitat conditions unfortunately not so rare within the lake sturgeon’s range. Ripe males from the 1995 stocking have been collected in 2007 and 2008 and have been found to migrate from a possible spawning site (spring) downstream to a lake (fall). This behavior is common in many extant populations. We document currently known habitat use and population characteristics. We will discuss the criteria and research needed to determine the relative restoration status of the fish in this system.


Discovering sex determining genes in lake sturgeon

Matthew Hale, Purdue University, Dept. of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Lafayette, IN

Mechanisms of fish sex determination are extremely labile; even closely related species may employ different means. The basis for sex determination in lake sturgeon is unknown, in part because sexual maturity can take up to 20 years and because the species has had at least one genome duplication event in its history. Here, we summarize various molecular techniques used in our attempts to uncover the gene(s) responsible for lake sturgeon sex determination.


Lake Sturgeon Spawning Habitat Restoration Efforts in the Detroit River, 2004 – 2008; Lessons learned with regard to Habitat Creation

Gregory W. Kennedy, Bruce Manny, and Jeffrey Allen, U.S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science Center, Ann Arbor, MI

Efforts to reestablish active spawning by lake sturgeon in the Detroit River began in earnest with the creation of three spawning beds near the southeast shore of Belle Isle. Substrate materials that made up the three beds were chosen to imitate known, active spawning areas within the Great Lakes Basin; broken limestone used in Wisconsin streams, natural rounded cobble used in the St. Clair River near Port Huron, and cinder “fly-ash” material used in the North Channel St Clair River near Algonac, MI. Monitoring of adult fish activity and egg production were conducted for 4 years following construction, as well as other physical/biological parameters such as infilling by fine sediments and encrustation by zebra mussels, to determine how these beds were aging. This talk will discuss the effects the spawning reefs had on production and fish use in the area around the head of Belle Isle, the degree to which these beds are being used by sturgeon and the physical condition of the reefs after 4 years. Habitat preference by different fish species will be examined, as well as the impacts of material selection and design on the reef maturation process. Discussion will conclude with an explanation of how these findings are being applied to new restoration efforts being conducted downstream near the northeast corner of Fighting Island.


Educating and Engaging Stakeholders: Outreach Activities in Southwest Michigan - view poster (180 KB pdf)

Dan O’Keefe, Michigan Sea Grant, Grand Haven, MI

Michigan Sea Grant organized an educational public meeting to raise awareness of sturgeon rehabilitation opportunities in southwest Michigan. Subsequently, the newly-formed Kalamazoo River Chapter of Sturgeon for Tomorrow was provided with materials and expertise necessary to participate in sampling for sturgeon eggs. Efforts in 2008 did not result in the capture of sturgeon eggs from the Kalamazoo River, but did serve the purpose of engaging and energizing an emerging stakeholder group.


Montcalm Mine Initiatives to Protect Groundhog River Lake Sturgeon - view poster (362 KB pdf)

Laurent Robichaud and Pamela Reid, Montcalm Environmental Liaison Group, Xstrata Nickel Montcalm Mine, Timmins, ON.

The Groundhog River in Northern Ontario still holds its status of one of a few North American rivers to have a reasonably healthy lake sturgeon population. This poster will explain successful treatment of mine water, the sturgeon monitoring study methods and findings over the last few years.


First Record of Polypodium hydriforme, an egg parasite, from lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) in the St. Clair River, Michigan - view poster (107 KB pdf)

Michael Thomas, Michigan DNR, Lake St. Clair Fisheries Research Station, Harrison Township, MI

Two lake sturgeon, Acipenser fulvescens (Acipenseridae), examined from the St. Clair River, Michigan in June 2008 were found infected with the cnidarian, Polypodium hydriforme. One female extruded both apparently infected eggs as well as the mature stolon stage of P. hydriforme, while the other extruded only mature stolons. The egg parasite P. hydriforme has been previously reported in a land-locked lake sturgeon population in Michigan’s Black River, near Cheboygan, Michigan. This is the first report of P. hydriforme from a free-ranging population of Great Lakes sturgeon, and the first in Michigan since 1973.


Lake Sturgeon status and management in the Niagara River

Betsy Trometer, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Lower Great Lakes FRO, Amherst, NY

Assessment of the Niagara River lake sturgeon population was conducted from 1994 through 2003. There were three main parts in our assessment: angler/diver survey, population survey, and movement and habitat use assessment. The angle/diver surveys indicated that sturgeon were found throughout the Niagara River system and even indicated differences in locations of adults and juveniles. Population assessment was conducted using a combination of SCUBA divers, gill nets and set lines. Age distribution ranged from 1 to 27 with most of the fish age 10 and under. Ultrasonic transmitters were attached to 24 sturgeon to assess movement and habitat use in the lower Niagara River. Results indicated the adult sturgeon moved more and traveled between the river and Lake Ontario, whereas the juvenile lake sturgeon moved less and tended to stay in the river. Although the tracking indicated adults congregate in a couple of locations during May and June, we have been unable to identify spawning habitat. Management issues include the impacts of water level fluctuations from the operation of two Power Projects in the river on lake sturgeon reproduction and the identification and protection of critical habitat.


Manistee River Sturgeon Habitat Assessment - view poster (764 KB pdf)

Radley Watkins, Northern Environmental Technologies, Park Falls, WI
Marty Holtgren, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Manistee, MI

During spring and summer of 2005, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians collaborated with Northern Environmental Technologies to characterize the habitat at Suicide Bend (a known sturgeon spawning site) and Tunk Hole in the Big Manistee River, Michigan. One goal of the project was to compare and contrast the 2 sites with each other, as well as, characterize them with other documented sturgeon spawning habitats in North America. The information gathered from comparing and contrasting available data was used to determine what factors may limit habitat at Tunk Hole suitable for lake sturgeon spawning. From this, conceptual plans were developed for reclaiming sturgeon spawning habitat at Tunk Hole.


Use of otolith length in age determination of juvenile lake sturgeon- view poster (99 KB pdf)

Timothy Wilson, MS candidate at Michigan Technological University;
Nancy A. Auer, Michigan Technological University, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Houghton, MI
Edward A. Baker, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Marquette, MI

For many years fisheries managers have used otolith growth ring counts to determine the age structure of fish populations and to obtain information on biology and population dynamics. This is the first reported use of lake sturgeon otoliths in determining age of larval sizes. Sagittae otoliths removed from young-of-year (YOY) lake sturgeon, reared at a streamside rearing facility on the Ontonagon River, MI, showed no daily growth rings. Yet, a sample of 256 known age lake sturgeon, collected from 8 June to 26 August 2008, revealed an exponential relationship between otolith total length (TL) and fish age and a linear relationship between otolith TL and fish TL. This research indicates that young lake sturgeon may be aged using sagittae otolith TL and that left and right otoliths provide similar age estimations. This newly developed aging method for young sturgeon limits the amount of expertise and time needed to age individual fish, and allows fisheries managers to estimate the age of known size YOY fish while in the field.


Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon web-based Information Sites (3 posters):

Lake Sturgeon Tributary Database and GIS- view poster (1.21 MB pdf)

Chris Castiglione, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – Lower Great Lakes FRO

The Lake Sturgeon Tributary Database and GIS is a unified, interactive web-based GIS application and meta-database of Great Lakes lake sturgeon information important to researchers and managers. The database is developed upon existing maps and database developed for the 2000 and 2002 GLFT Lake Sturgeon Workshops with updates from the Sturgeon Committee. This project has been a collaboration between the USFWS and numerous state, tribal, provincial, university, and other researchers. This web application functions much like a GIS database, allowing selection of various data layers and enabling the user to query available data to find specific information of interest. The web portion extends some GIS capabilities to researchers, managers, and decision makers. The long-term objective is to compile the available lake sturgeon data sources to help focus restoration and research activities on priority lake sturgeon waters.


Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon Webpage - view poster (265 KB pdf)

Anjanette Bowen, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – Alpena FWCO

The Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon web site was established to provide a focus for lake sturgeon restoration and management activities throughout the Great Lakes Basin. Interest and efforts directed at the recovery of this native Great Lakes fish species have been increasing without the benefits of visibility afforded to sport species. Federal, state, tribal, provincial and academic natural resource specialists have been communicating and collaborating for compilation of status and trends information on the species in numerous Great Lakes locations. A web site specifically focused on Great Lakes lake sturgeon was thought to be appropriate to enhance the efficiency of this information exchange.

In an effort to provide leadership for this multi-agency, interbasin collaborative effort, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office secured internal funding for creation and maintenance of this web site through the Service’s Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem Team. This site contains information from a number of agencies working on lake sturgeon management, research, conservation and restoration in the Great Lakes basin. The long-range goal of this site is to have it serve as a focal point for anyone wanting information on Great Lakes lake sturgeon.

If you or your affiliation wishes to include your activities and information on this web site, please contact Anjanette Bowen.


Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon Tag Identification Database

Adam Kowalski, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – Alpena FWCO

The Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon Tag Identification Database (TID) is intended to facilitate communication between people who tag and those who recapture lake sturgeon across the Great Lakes. The database provides managers, researchers, and other interested parties the ability to determine who should be contacted when they encounter a tagged lake sturgeon. Development of the TID was initiated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon Committee in 2001. The structure of the database was developed through a peer review process that involved fishery professionals from several agencies that tag lake sturgeon in the Great Lakes. Completion of the database and development of this web accessible version was made possible through funding provided by the Great Lakes Fishery Trust in 2005. The database is managed by the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (Alpena NFWCO) and is posted on the Great Lakes Fishery Commission web site. Data contained in the database are limited to contact information for those who tag and recapture lake sturgeon with specified tag number (PIT tags) or other identifying marks or tags. Data are submitted electronically to the Alpena NFWCO where they are formatted and added to the database. Annual updates are completed to include new tags and recaptures. The USFWS Lake Sturgeon Committee provides oversight of the project.

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