2021 Black Lake sturgeon season wraps within hours

After only two hours of fishing, this year’s sturgeon season on Black Lake (in Cheboygan and Presque Isle counties) ended slightly after 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 6. The season, which included spearing and hook-and-line fishing, was scheduled to run Feb. 6-10, or until the harvest limit quota of six lake sturgeon had been reached.

Anglers initially were allocated a season quota of seven sturgeon, but the Michigan Department of Natural Resources set the harvest limit at six fish. This action helps accommodate the expected number of anglers and anticipate the possibility of near-simultaneous harvest of more than one fish. That occurred this year, with the sixth and seventh fish harvested within seconds of each other, while DNR officials were shutting the season down.

“The way this Black Lake sturgeon season ended highlights why we set our yearly harvest limit at a level lower than the state’s harvest allocation,” said Tim Cwalinski, DNR fisheries biologist. “Because of that foresight we were able to stay within our 2021 season harvest goal.”

There were more than 500 registered anglers, including a good number of supervised youth. According to the DNR, four sturgeon harvested were male and three were female, ranging from 50 to 63 inches long and 25 to 61 pounds in weight.

The first fish was a 50-inch male that weighed 26 pounds.
Fish number two was a 54-inch male that weighed 37 pounds.
Fish three was the largest, a 63-inch female that checked in at 61 pounds.
Fish four was a 50-inch male that weighed 27 pounds.
The fifth fish was a 57-inch female that weighed 38 pounds.
The sixth fish was a 51-inch male that weighed 25 pounds.
The seventh and final fish harvested was a 60-inch female weighing 43 pounds.
Three of the seven fish taken had been captured before by Michigan State University and the DNR during spring spawning runs in the Black River. A harvested 54-inch male originally was captured in 2014 and 2018. A 50-inch male had been captured and tagged during the 2014, 2016 and 2018 spawning runs in the Black River. A 60-inch female had been captured in the 2006 spawning run. In addition, a 51-inch male had been tagged in the past with a coded wire tag just prior to stocking.

“This past year brought on many challenges and being able to safely host this event at Black Lake for all the anglers and staff was a priority for us,” said DNR fisheries manager Dave Borgeson. “We are pleased with how everyone adjusted to the safety protocols for us to have a successful season.”

Participating anglers were notified of the season closure in a variety of ways, including text alerts to those who registered their cell phone numbers and ice shanty visits from DNR personnel. All methods were used to indicate the season’s end within minutes of the final fish being harvested. DNR law enforcement officials and other department personnel again were embedded in the on-ice fishing communities and were able to quickly and safely report harvested fish this year, as well as to quickly contact all lake sturgeon anglers on the ice and close the season.

Rehabilitation of lake sturgeon in the Cheboygan River watershed is a cooperative effort involving the DNR, the Black Lake Chapter of Sturgeon For Tomorrow, Michigan State University, Tower-Kleber Limited Partnership, the Bay Mills Indian Community, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

For more information on lake sturgeon in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/Sturgeon. To learn more about all fishing opportunities statewide, go to Michigan.gov/Fishing.