Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials announced the 2018 sturgeon harvest season on Black Lake (in the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula) ended after two and a half hours Saturday, Feb. 3, with seven fish being harvested. The fishing season, which included spearing or hook-and-line fishing, was scheduled to run Feb. 3-7, or until the harvest quota had been reached. The allocation of sturgeon for Black Lake this year was seven fish, although DNR officials set a harvest quota of six fish.
There were 426 registered anglers on the ice Saturday, up from 332 the year before. Most anglers registered at the pre-registration held Friday, Feb. 2, which continues to allow for a much more streamlined process. Anglers of all ages and genders participated, including a good number of supervised youth.
According to the DNR, the first four sturgeon were harvested before 8:30 a.m. after an 8 a.m. start. The first fish was a 58-inch female that weighed 45 pounds, while fish number two was a 41-inch female that weighed 16 pounds. Fish three was the largest fish of the season, a 72-inch female that weighed 99 pounds. Fish four was a 56-inch male that weighed 36 pounds. The fifth fish was a 69-inch female that weighed 73 pounds. The sixth fish was a 53-inch male that weighed 31 pounds, and the final fish was a 64-inch female that weighed 66 pounds.
Four of the seven fish taken had been captured before by Michigan State University and DNR sturgeon researchers during spring spawning runs in the Black River. For example, the 69-inch female originally was captured and tagged in the Black River during the 2003 spawning run. She was recaptured during spawning runs in 2006, 2010 and 2013. The largest fish captured this year also was captured in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 spawning runs, essentially spawning every four years.
The sturgeon fishing hotline indicating the season was closed was updated at 10:23 a.m., which officially closed the season. In addition, signal cannons, mortar rounds, fireworks and sirens were used to indicate the season’s end within minutes of the final fish being harvested. DNR law enforcement officials and other department personnel were embedded in the on-ice fishing communities and were able to quickly report harvested fish this year, as well as to quickly contact all lake sturgeon anglers on the ice and close the season.
“The unlimited entry fishery paired with a significant on-ice presence of DNR personnel allows for greater participation by anglers while protecting the population of lake sturgeon in Black Lake from overharvest,” said DNR fisheries biologist Tim Cwalinski. “It was deemed another successful season for angler participation, fish harvest, quick response times, and from a safety perspective.”
In addition, the Black Lake Sturgeon Shivaree event, sponsored by many local groups, was held on the ice and offered a festive environment for the public.
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 sturgeon in Michigan, visit michigan.gov/sturgeon.