Cashing in on walleyes, standing guard for sturgeon

(Michigan DNR)

Is there more value attached to walleyes in Michigan’s Saginaw Bay tributary rivers or Wisconsin lakes? And just how valuable are lake sturgeon in Michigan’s Black River?

If you’re talking straight-up monetary value, select walleyes could be worth $100 in the Saginaw Bay system. And if it’s a production thing – in this case, dwindling production – Wisconsin walleyes are indeed valuable.

And when volunteers are being recruited – hundreds are needed – to help protect sturgeon in the Black River from illegal harvest during the annual spawn run … Now that’s valuable.

The Black Lake Chapter of Sturgeon for Tomorrow in Cheboygan County is seeking volunteers to join in the aforementioned effort, in partnership with the Michigan DNR‘s Law Enforcement and Fisheries Divisions.

Each spring, mature lake sturgeon, threatened in Michigan and rare throughout the U.S., become vulnerable to poaching as they briefly leave Black Lake for spawning sites upstream in the Black River, the DNR said in a news release. As a result, hundreds of volunteers are needed to stand guard along the Black River during the spawning season, from mid-April through early June, to report suspicious activity and deter the unlawful taking of the iconic fish.

When spawning begins, sturgeon guards are assigned in shifts to sites along the river. The volunteers stand watch and, if suspicious activity occurs, use cellular phones provided by Sturgeon for Tomorrow to contact DNR conservation officers who are actively patrolling the area in support of the guarding effort, the release said, adding that aerial surveillance is also used to help secure the area.

Those interested in volunteering may call 906-201-2484 or 906-346-9511 or register online by clicking here.

On the Michigan walleye front, the DNR recently tagged and released 3,000 walleyes in Saginaw Bay tributary rivers in an annual effort to monitor survival and harvest rates as well as movement of the species. About 20 percent of the tags are good for a $100 reward, according to reports

To cash in, anglers must provide a definitive photo of the orange disk-shaped tags to the DNR. Reports may be made via mail to the address on the tag, by phone at 989-684-9141 or online at michigan.gov/taggedfish. Walleye season on the bay’s tributary rivers starts the last Saturday of April, according to reports.

In Wisconsin, according to a study published recently in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Species, walleye production has dropped in Wisconsin lakes since 1990 – it now takes 1.5 times longer to produce the same amount of walleyes as it did a couple of decades ago, according to the study, derived through fish population data from more than 470 Wisconsin lakes.

No causes were named by the authors; they said it’s likely a combination of factors, including fish harvest rates, habitat issues and warming water, among others things, according to reports. The study did not say what declining production might mean for future walleye harvests.

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