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Streamside Lake Sturgeon Culture for the Ontonagon River, Michigan

Principle Investigator: Nancy Auer, Biological Sciences
Sponsor: MI DNR
Partner: Dr. Edward A Baker, MI DNR
Award Amount: $30,394
Project Duration: 10/1/2006 - 9/30/2008
MTU Reference Code: 060923


The State of Michigan has agreed with other state and federal agencies to manage for lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) rehabilitation using best stocking practices (DRAFT Lake Mcihigan lake Sturgeon Talk Group Rehabilitation Plan). Through much research and prior experience with salmon stocks, and other fishes which imprint to natal areas when newly developing, survival and recruitment are improved if eggs are hatched and young are reared within streams or in systems which use actual stream flow-through (House 1999). The MDNR had previously begun a program of re-establishment of lake sturgeon within the Ontonagon River, Michigan, a river which historically supported a large population (Schoolcraft 1953). However, recent advances in the knowledge of lake sturgeon genetics and concerns about the impact of stocked lake sturgeon straying to other rivers and spawning with genetically unique remnant populations has led to cessation of stocking in the Ontonagon River. Our objective is to raise lake sturgeon in a streamside hatchery using ambient Ontonagon River water so that fish will imprint to the river. If the stocked lake sturgeon imprint to the Ontonagon River there will be less chance of fish straying to other rivers and there will also be a greater likelihood of successful rehabilitation of the Ontonagon population. By raising lake sturgeon from egg to fingerling age in ambient river water we will also be able to evaluate the likely future success of natural spawning in the Ontonagon. Because of excessive turbidity in the Ontonagon River there is some concern about whether naturally spawned eggs will survive to hatch. By using ambient river water we will be able to evaluate the effects of turbidity on lake sturgeon egg incubation and subsequent fish survival.

Literature Sited

House, F. 1999. Totem Salmon, Beacon Press, Boston, MA, 225p.

Schoolcraft, H. R., 1953. Quoted in M. L. WIlliams, editor, Narrative journal of travels through the Northwestern regions of the United States extending from Detroit through the great chain of American lakes to the sources of the Mississippi River in the year 1820. The Mcihgian State College Press, East Lansing, MI.