Outdoor Observation – April 20, 2009

Bill Parker

MAKE_A_DIFFERENCE. The goal of most conservation groups is to
make a difference in the field of outdoor recreation they
represent. Most accomplish that goal, either in modest measurements
or drastic accomplishment, through volunteer efforts.

A conservation group in northern Lower Michigan is making a big
difference in the continued survival and proliferation of one of
Michigan’s treasured, although often overlooked resources – the
mammoth lake sturgeon.

The group is asking for your help this spring.

For more than a decade, the Black Lake Chapter of Sturgeon for
Tomorrow has been fighting for and supporting sturgeon and sturgeon
research, particularly on the population in Cheboygan County’s
Black Lake. That modest population is the only viable inland lake
sturgeon population in the state.

Through it’s voluntary work, the chapter raises and donates
money towards sturgeon research and rehabilitation, presents annual
scholarships to students who study in the fields of fisheries,
wildlife or natural resources conservation, and runs the Sturgeon
Guarding Program each spring from the banks of the Black River.

According to SFT, the lake sturgeon is the largest freshwater
fish indigenous to the Great Lakes basin and has been around for
thousands of years. This slow-growing, long-living fish can reach
weights of 200 pounds.

Females don’t usually reach sexual maturity until the age of
24-26 years and they spawn once every 4-9 years. Males live an
average of about 55 years while females can live for over 100
years.

Each spring, mature sturgeon – listed as a threatened species
here in Michigan – swim up the Black River to spawn. They spawn in
the shallow gravel shoals of the river, which leaves them
vulnerable to poaching. The Black Lake Chapter of SFT runs the
Sturgeon Guarding Program each spring to protect the spawning fish
from those who wish to exploit them.

Members of the chapter are looking for volunteers, either
individuals or groups, to help them protect these spawning giants
while they’re in the Black River, now through the end of May.
Volunteers patrol the river and report any suspicious activity to
local conservation officers, who patrol the area in support of the
program.

The program has been a huge success and has reduced sturgeon
poaching to nearly zero.

Shifts are available for anyone interested in supporting this
program. Sturgeon Guard Program coordinators are on site 24-hours a
day, seven days a week, to assist volunteers and answer questions.
Volunteers are encouraged to set up rustic camps along the banks of
the river. Hotels and the Onaway State Park also are available
nearby.

If you’ve got a few hours or a couple days to volunteer your
time consider a trip to Cheboygan County to assist in this
worthwhile conservation project.

Contact Ann Feldhauser at (906) 346-9511 or (906) 201-2484 or
Brenda Archambo at (231) 625-2776 for more information and to
arrange a patrol time. Visit the SFT web site at www.sturgeonfortomorrow.org
for more information.

Categories: Michigan – Bill Parker

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