Thursday, February 9th, 2023
Thursday, February 9th, 2023

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Spearers take four sturgeon during Black Lake season

By Yvonne Swager

Correspondent

Onaway, Mich. – Anne Marie Archambo, of Cheboygan, is two for
two in lake sturgeon spearing attempts on Black Lake. She has only
registered for the lake’s spearing season twice, was chosen by
lottery to fish both times, and took fish both times, including
this season’s largest fish at 70.5 pounds.

‘I’m really lucky. I’ve seen two fish and I’ve gotten both of
them. It’s really, really exciting, because you rarely see them. I
lucked out,’ Archambo told Michigan Outdoor News.

This year, she was watching an 8-foot-long hole over 18 feet of
water. She said she was fortunate the fish came in slowly and off
to the right.

‘I had time to grab the spear and throw it. I threw the first
one and a second one just to be sure,’ she said.

Spear fishing has been a part of Archambo’s family for
generations, and she said she began learning her technique
early.

‘When I was a kid, my dad used to let me throw. He used to use
sliced potatoes on the lake bottom,’ Archambo said.

This year’s prize fish was landed with the help of nephew, Evan
Archambo, and brother, Andrew Archambo. The family also will be
sharing some sturgeon feasts, according to Anne Marie.

‘I took the skin to have it mounted, but we’ll be eating
sturgeon. I don’t eat fish except sturgeon. It tastes a lot like
pork,’ she said.

The second largest fish this year weighed in at 69 pounds and
was speared by Gary Flones of Indian River. This also was the
second fish he has taken, but his quest for fish hasn’t been as
lucky as Archambo’s.

‘I’ve been picked several times before when I didn’t get fish. I
register every year,’ Flones said.

He wasn’t picked this year, either, but was able to fish by
winning a secondary drawing one morning when some first round
lottery winners didn’t show.

‘There were three no-shows. After 10 a.m., there were maybe 20
people there for the secondary drawing. I was really lucky. I got
picked and got the fish that day at 1:30 p.m.,’ he said.

Flones took the top sturgeon in 1997 with a 97-pound fish. He
said he chums the bottom and uses a good decoy.

‘If you move it right, they come right in. You’ve got to be
ready. They come in slow, but they can get spooked,’ he said.

According to Flones, there was some struggle in pulling this
year’s fish from 14 feet of water. He said his spear went under the
ice. He needed help, but the effort was well worthwhile.

‘It’s amazing to see a big fish like that coming through the
hole. It looks like a shark. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. When
you see one, it’s really something,’ Flones said.

Also successful this year was Shawn Hope, of Indian River, who
speared a 59-pound sturgeon, and James Terry, of Roseville, with a
38-pound fish. The special Black Lake sturgeon season allows for
five fish to be taken during the season, which this year ran Feb.
3-11. It was the second consecutive year that only four fish were
taken by the season’s close. The season runs for nine days or until
five fish are speared.

Brenda Archambo, president of Sturgeon For Tomorrow, said
conditions may be a factor in not meeting the five-fish quota.

‘The lake ice conditions were iffy. The ice was 2 inches at some
places and 5 inches at others. The clarity of the water was not
really good,’ Archambo said.

Difficult conditions won’t likely discourage participants.
Archambo said spear fishing is part of the community around Black
Lake.

‘Spear fishing is deeply entrenched in the culture. A lot of
old-timers make spears. There are many decoy carvers and
collectors,’ she said.

According to Archambo, SFT was organized in an attempt to
preserve the sport for future generations. SFT developed a program
to discourage poaching during the spawning season, and she said the
group is looking to the community to help revive the Black Lake
Shivaree, once a regular event of the lake during sturgeon spearing
season.

‘We are now sitting down to discuss the future of the event. We
need about 100 people to make it happen. It will happen again,’ she
said.

A total of 590 applicants registered for the chance to fish this
year, and 225 winners were drawn and assigned days on which they
could fish.

The season was not always so restricted.

Brian Hoxie, technician for the DNR’s Fisheries Division, said
the season used to be open for the entire month of February to
anyone with a valid fishing license.

‘The DNR felt the population was being decimated. Sturgeon are
really slow-growing fish. The number of eggs they produce is
astronomical, but few survive,’ Hoxie said.

Hoxie said sturgeon used to travel freely between the Great
Lakes and inland lakes, but damming of rivers has trapped them in
smaller waters. Human intervention has become necessary to maintain
the population of the 365-million-year-old species, and Hoxie said
residents were cooperative regarding restricting the season on
Black Lake.

‘The other option was to close the season, entirely, which we
had to do on Burt Lake and Mullet Lake. People didn’t want to see
that happen,’ he said.

Monitoring programs will indicate if the species is thriving
well enough in the inland waters, and Hoxie said there is some talk
of eventually reopening lakes like Burt and Mullet to the sturgeon
spearing season.

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