MIDLAND, MI — The community of Mid-Michigan is invited once again to witness the reintroduction of a special species of fish to the Saginaw Bay watershed.
On Saturday 24th September there will be three sea sturgeon reintroduction events. Beginning at 11:00 a.m., young sturgeons will be released into the Tittabawassee River by the Bob G. Caldwell Municipal Boat Launch in Midland. Another release will be at 12pm at Cole Park on the Shiawassee River in Chesaning and at 2pm on the Gunzenhausen Walkway on the Cass River in Frankenmuth.
The Saginaw Bay Sturgeon organization has made a push in recent years to reintroduce sturgeon into the Saginaw Bay watershed as part of a larger statewide, multi-year rehabilitation plan to develop self-sufficient sturgeon populations across the state. According to the organization, young sea sturgeons have been released into the tributaries of the Saginaw river system every year since 2017.
The most recent release was in August 2022, when over 100 sturgeons were released in the same three launches in Saginaw and Midland counties that will be deployed next September.
For the next two years, the sturgeons released as part of this project will receive an acoustic transmitter implant prior to their release. This transmitter is in addition to the PIT (passive integrated transponder) tag that Saginaw Bay Sturgeon says all sea sturgeon raised in hatcheries are given. 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 the sturgeons as they make their way through the river system and into Saginaw Bay.
“With the tracking system, we have the ability to compare these two sources and track juvenile fish activity in the different rivers and inlets,” said Justin Chiotti, fisheries biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. “While we love hearing the recent stories of anglers catching and releasing sea sturgeon, we need data from the fish to improve recovery efforts.”
As Chiotti mentioned, anglers have historically caught sturgeon in the area around Saginaw Bay and its tributaries. Since recovery efforts began, sturgeons have been particularly caught by ice fishermen on the Saginaw River.
As more and more sturgeon are released, anglers will continue to have opportunities to catch sturgeon. Anglers who hook a sturgeon are urged to return the fish to the water 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 / Report to. 28
According to Saginaw Bay Sturgeon, sea sturgeons are a unique species of the Great Lakes that can grow up to 7 feet in length and weigh up to 300 pounds. The slowly maturing fish do not begin to reproduce until they are 15-20 years old.
Once abundant in many of Michigan’s lakes and rivers, lake sturgeons have been nearly wiped out due to overfishing and habitat loss, particularly the destruction of rocky reefs in rivers that sturgeons and other native fish species use for spawning, the organization says.
The Saginaw Bay Watershed sturgeon release events are supported by a variety of partners including the City of Frankenmuth, Chippewa Nature Center, Flint River Watershed Coalition, Friends of the Shiawassee River, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan State University Department of 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 sea sturgeon recovery efforts at the Saginaw Bay Sturgeon website at www.saginawbaysturgeon.org.
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