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Lake sturgeon take center stage in Saginaw Bay - Michigan Sea Grant

The lake sturgeon is having a moment in Michigan. After humans nearly erased it from the Great Lakes, this fascinating fish species is on the cusp of a comeback, thanks to dam removals, riverbed restoration projects, and long-term restocking initiatives by state and tribal agencies.

Michigan Sea Grant has joined the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in focusing on the Saginaw Bay watershed as an important ecosystem for boosting lake sturgeon populations. One of the state’s major recovery strategies is raising young lake sturgeon in hatcheries and releasing them into Michigan’s rivers and lakes. With support from many partners, including Michigan Sea Grant and local tribal communities, Michigan DNR released 19,571 juvenile lake sturgeon into Michigan’s lakes and rivers this year. Nearly 2,000 of these found a new home in the rivers of the Saginaw Bay watershed:


Tittabawassee River: 470 fish

Cass River: 469 fish

Shiawassee River: 469 fish

Flint River: 471 fish



This fall, Michigan Sea Grant staff helped host sturgeon release events at riverside sites in Frankenmuth, Flint, Midland, and Chesaning. The young lake sturgeon, fresh from the hatchery, were only a few months old and about 4-6 inches long. Hundreds of participants got to learn about lake sturgeon, meet representatives from state and natural resource groups, and gently hand-release the baby lake sturgeon into the river. These events are an incredible way to get up close and personal with these fish as they begin the next phase of their decades-long lives. Watch the calendar for another round of release events next August and September.



New lake sturgeon adoption packages available

Release events aren’t the only way to get involved in lake sturgeon recovery efforts. A new Adopt-A-Sturgeon program, developed by Michigan Sea Grant and the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network, offers symbolic adoption packages so sturgeon lovers can directly support these special fish.

Funds raised through the adoption program will provide room and board for lake sturgeon currently growing in hatchery facilities, support riverside release events, and make it possible for teachers and students to raise juvenile lake sturgeon in their classrooms.

Depending on the support level, adopters can receive a certificate, plush sturgeon stuffed animal, and recognition on the program website.

All adopters also receive a unique PIT tag number corresponding with their fish. Each hatchery-raised fish is implanted with these tiny tags to help future researchers figure out where the fish were raised, how much they’ve grown, and how far they’ve traveled. If an adopted sturgeon is later captured and scanned by a researcher, the adopter will receive an update about their fish’s size and location. Find the Adopt-A-Sturgeon program online at www.saginawbaysturgeon.org.

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