MIDLAND, MI – The Central Michigan community is once again invited to witness the reintroduction of a special species of fish to the Saginaw Bay watershed.
Three lake sturgeon reintroduction events will take place on Saturday, September 24. Beginning at 11 a.m., juvenile sturgeon will be released into the Tittabawassee River from the Bob G. Caldwell municipal boat launch in Midland. Another outing will be at noon at Cole Park along the Shiawassee River in Chesaning and at 2:00 p.m. at the Gunzenhausen Walkway along the Cass River in Frankenmuth.
The Saginaw Bay Sturgeon Organization has spearheaded a push in recent years to reintroduce sturgeon to the Saginaw Bay watershed as part of a multi-year, nationwide rehabilitation plan. State aiming to develop self-sustaining sturgeon populations statewide. Since 2017, juvenile lake sturgeon have been released into tributaries of the Saginaw River system every year, according to the organization.
The most recent release was in August 2022 when over 100 sturgeon were released in the same three launches in Saginaw and Midland counties which will be used over the next September.
Over the next two years, sturgeon released as part of this project will receive an acoustic transmitter implant before being released. This transmitter is in addition to the PIT (passive integrated transponder) tag that all hatchery-reared lake sturgeon receive, according to Saginaw Bay Sturgeon. Fixed acoustic receivers have been deployed in the Cass, Flint, Shiawassee and Tittabawassee rivers – along with existing receivers in Saginaw Bay to help researchers track sturgeon as they move through the river system and into the bay of Saginaw.
“With the tracking system, we will have the opportunity to compare these two sources, as well as track fry activity in the different rivers and bays,” said Justin Chiotti, fisheries biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. “While we love hearing recent stories from anglers who have caught and released lake sturgeon, we need fish data to improve restoration efforts.”
As Chiotti mentioned, anglers have caught sturgeon in the past around the Saginaw Bay area and its tributaries. Sturgeons have been caught by ice fishermen especially on the Saginaw River since restoration efforts began.
With more and more sturgeon released, anglers will continue to have the opportunity to catch sturgeon. Anglers who catch a sturgeon are urged to release the fish as soon as possible and report the catch to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources online at https://www2.dnr.state.mi.us /ORS/Survey/ 28
According to Saginaw Bay Sturgeon, the lake sturgeon is a unique Great Lakes species that can grow up to 7 feet long and weigh up to 300 pounds. Slow-maturing fish do not begin to breed until they are 15-20 years old.
Once abundant in many Michigan lakes and rivers, lake sturgeon have been nearly eradicated due to overfishing and habitat loss, particularly the destruction of rocky reefs in rivers that sturgeon and other native fish species use for spawning, according to the organization.
Saginaw Bay Watershed Sturgeon Release Events are supported by various partners including the Town of Frankenmuth, Chippewa Nature Center, Flint River Watershed Coalition, Friends of the Shiawassee River, Department of Natural Resources of Michigan, the Michigan Sea Grant, the Department of Michigan State University. Fisheries and Wildlife, MSU Extension, Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network, Sturgeon for Tomorrow – Black Lake Chapter, The Conservation Fund, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and more.
Learn more about lake sturgeon restoration efforts at the Saginaw Bay Sturgeon website at www.saginawbaysturgeon.org.
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