News & Resources

Late Nights and Sturgeon

Posted by Paul Wiemerslage | Jun 25, 2015

Once a common species in the Great Lakes and larger rivers of Michigan, the Lake Sturgeon was depleted through overfishing throughout its range. Now a species of high conservation priority, efforts to restore populations of Lake Sturgeons are underway throughout the Midwest. One of these efforts is led by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians (LRBOI). Focused on the lower Manistee River, near the center of the Band’s traditional homeland, fisheries biologists of the LRBOI are capturing sturgeon fry in the lower Manistee River and raising them in a special sturgeon rearing facility. In this controlled environment, young sturgeon are protected from predators and environmental hazards, growing to larger sizes to be released later when they are less vulnerable. The program thus increases the survival of sturgeon fry and augments the river’s sturgeon population.

This year the Au Sable Institute has been honored to assist in the effort, sending four students to assist with sturgeon capture in the lower Manistee River this May and June. Using large D-framed nets set across the river’s channel at night, when sturgeon are most active, the Au Sable team has helped collect sturgeon fry to aid in this restoration effort. Corey Jerome, the Tribe’s Aquatic and Fisheries Biologist who instructed the Au Sable team in sampling and collection techniques, noted, “The assistance of Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies during the spring Manistee River Lake Sturgeon larval drift collection was an integral part in the completion of the 14th year of sampling. The willingness to jump in with two feet during high flows and late nights with enthusiasm and eagerness to learn new sampling techniques in the assistance with the collection of larval lake sturgeon for further rearing in the streamside rearing facility showed great appreciation for the work they were completing.”  Marty Holtgren, Senior Inland Fisheries Biologist added, “The Au Sable staff have been a great addition to the sturgeon program.  They instantly became an important part of the field crew and were instrumental to the success of this difficult survey.  Their positive outlook and excitement towards a new experience was encouraging to see.”

Fred Van Dyke, Executive Director of the Au Sable Institute who accompanied the Au Sable Team on their first collection event in May, explained, “This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to be part of an ongoing and truly effective population restoration effort. We’re honored to be part of this effort with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, and we’re pleased to be able to offer our students this kind of education in the practical work of conservation and restoration.”  The Au Sable Institute commends the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians for this important work in population restoration of an important native species, and thanks them for the honor of working with them in this effort.