Proceedings of the 2004 Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon Coordination Meeting

Basin Oriented Sessions

2:15 - 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 10, 2004

1. Lake Superior Basin
2. Lake Michigan Basin
3. Lake Huron & Lake Erie Basins
4. Lake Ontario Basin & St. Lawrence River

Basin Oriented Session: Lake Superior Basin

The discussion was started with introductions by participants including a brief description of their affiliation and suggestions of topics to cover during this group discussion.

Andy Edwards, Mike Friday, Bill Gardner, Susan Greenwood, Brian Gunderman, Alex Litvinov, Robert McNeely, Glenn Miller, Terry Perrault, Brad Phaneuf, Tom Pratt, Jonathan Pyatskowit, Henry Quinlan (facilitator), Karen Schmidt, Steve Scott, Amy Welsh.

Major Topics Covered:
- Harvest questions
- Formation of Lake Superior Lake Sturgeon Work Group
- Tagging site/location
- Genetic study status
- Stocking
- Taking of age structures

Discussion Summary:

Steve Scott asked about significant sport or commercial harvest in Canadian waters.
The sport harvest remains rather liberal at one fish per day with size limit restrictions. There is no Provincial commercial harvest allowed. Sue Greenwood explained that among First Nations there are 2 types of catch generally occurring - subsistence catch and an “unregulated” catch. The “unregulated” catch is somewhat monitored through buyer reports. Steve asked about the need to examine regulations lakewide (either sport or commercial). Some discussion ensued with no outcome.

Formation of a Lake Superior Lake Sturgeon Working Group

Henry mentioned that a lake sturgeon work group was likely being formed under the direction of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s Lake Superior Technical Committee (LSTC). This work group would follow up on the collaborative efforts of the former Lake Sturgeon Subcommittee which produced the reports, Status of Lake Sturgeon in Lake Superior (1996) and the Lake Superior Lake Sturgeon Rehabilitation Plan (1999). The LSTC suggested that the charge to the work group would be to monitor and report progress at achieving lake sturgeon rehabilitation in Lake Superior. Henry was tasked to identify and contact people interested in participating on the work group. This breakout session is one opportunity to identify individuals and/or agencies that would be interested in participating. The Work Group terms of reference will be determined at the January 2005 LSTC meeting.

Tagging Site/Location

There are several locations on a sturgeon where internal tags (PIT – passive integrated transponder and CWT – coded wire tag) are being applied. There is concern that all agencies/institutions are not aware of where various agencies are placing tags and that tags may not be detected if field crews are not checking all potential sites where tags are applied. We developed the following table but lacked participation and confirmation by several agencies so it is incomplete.

Agency PIT CWT

Knowledge Gaps: Unsure of location in Sturgeon River, Portage River, Chequamegon Bay and Minnesota.

CWTs are added to all stocked fish in the Ontonagon and Sturgeon rivers and also on some in the St. Louis River. The tag site is usually located on the snout or under the 2nd/3rd dorsal scute. Very few agencies are checking for the CWTs during assessment activities.

We discussed using a standard a site (back of head) for PIT tags, but felt that discussion/decision should take place with the Work Group being formed since some folks using other sites were not present. It was agreed upon that if inserting the 22mm PIT tags in the belly, then also place a tag in the head.


Amy Welsh at UC-Davis has done most of the recent genetic analysis on Lake Superior lake sturgeon. Amy will be at UC- Davis for at least another 1.5 years and will continue to accept and process tissue samples. A report on the genetic status and structure of Lake Superior (and other Cdn/US Great Lakes) sturgeon populations sampled through 2003 has been completed. In general, there is a great deal genetic difference among lake sturgeon populations in Lake Superior as well as between Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes basins. Tom Pratt asked about the absolute minimum number of samples for analysis. Amy responded with “20”.

There was discussion of the ability to assign a river of origin to sturgeon captured in the open lake. Amy indicated that she can analyze lake caught tissue samples and assign them (she feels confident about this) to the most likely river of origin.


Three (or four) stocking projects are underway in Lake Superior. They are in the Ontonagon and Sturgeon rivers, Michigan, and the lower and upper St. Louis River, MN/WI. Steve Scott noted that in the late 1990s Michigan DNR and Wisconsin DNR developed an agreement to stock eggs from the Sturgeon River, Michigan in the St. Louis River. For 2-3 years, eggs from the Sturgeon River were reared at Wisconsin DNR Wild Rose Hatchery and stocked in the St. Louis River. The agreement called for 50% of the fish to be returned to Michigan DNR. Michigan DNR stocked those fish in the Ontonagon River which was identified as having high potential for restoration in the Michigan DNR sturgeon plan. Michigan DNR currently raises Sturgeon River eggs at their Wolf Lake Hatchery and targets stocking 5,000 fall fingerlings annually. This is a 20 year plan. The preferred life stage for stocking is 0+ to 1+.

Michigan DNR and Michigan Technological University are doing assessment of the stocking in the Ontonogan River. Other agencies would like to know more about this project.

Terry Perrault of the Fond du Lac Band described the upper St. Louis River stocking project. This project is an attempt to restore a river resident population upstream from 5 dams/barriers to Lake Superior. When they started the project in 1999 they attempted to locate a river resident population from Lake Superior but none was known to exist. They worked out an agreement with Wisconsin DNR to receive eggs from a river resident population in the Menominee River, a tributary to Lake Michigan. To improve the likelihood of developing a river resident population in the upper St. Louis River they used Astroturf nest boxes and planted 120,000 eggs in an attempt to help imprinting. They have had good hatch success but little success capturing juveniles.

A discussion ensued about the genetic background of the St. Louis River fish. Bill Gardner asked if there was any possibility of getting genetic material from old mounted fish from the area. Steve Scott asked about other egg sources. It was suggested that the topic of identifying eggs sources and stocking options for the Fond du Lac Band to consider be discussed at a Work Group meeting.

Taking Age Structures

Sue Greenwood asked about procedures used by other agencies to take pectoral fin ray structures for aging. Discussion ensued about different methods used. Brian Gunderman noted that taking the fin ray at least 5 millimeters from the joint was preferred for age accuracy. The group seemed to prefer the use of a hack saw to take a small, 1-2 cm section of ray over taking the whole fin ray. The need to take a fin ray was also discussed since it is such an invasive procedure. Generally, agencies should be sure there is a justifiable need to know the fish age before taking the structure.

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