It was a fast turnaround for anglers taking a stab at catching an iconic fish in Cheboygan County.
The Department of Natural Resource reports the 2014 Black Lake sturgeon harvest season ended after less than 90 minutes on Saturday with six fish being harvested. The fishing season, which included spearing or hook-and-line fishing, was scheduled to run through February 5, or until the harvest quota had been reached.
"The 2014 allocation of Black Lake sturgeon for the State of Michigan was six fish, although DNR officials imposed a voluntary quota of five fish for recreational anglers," said Todd Grischke, Lake Huron Basin coordinator. "Establishing this one-fish buffer before the fishing season allowed us to stay within our allocation of six fish. This year is a great example of how our harvest allocation model and on-ice communication effectively reduce the chance of overharvest of lake sturgeon in Black Lake."
There were 228 registered anglers on the ice on Saturday, down from 268 the year before. Most anglers registered at the pre-registration held on Jan. 31, which allowed for a much more streamlined process.
According to Tim Cwalinski, DNR fisheries biologist, lake sturgeon were moving the last couple days, including opening day, which meant more fish were able to be seen by anglers. The first three fish were harvested before 8:45 a.m. opening day, then a short flurry of activity occurred just after 9:15 a.m. as three additional fish were harvested.
The sturgeon fishing hotline was updated at 9:19 a.m. and officially closed the season. In addition, signal cannons and sirens were used to signal the season's end. DNR law enforcement officials and other DNR personnel were embedded in the 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 harvested fish ranged in length and weight: fish one was female, 90 pounds and 66 inches; fish two was female, 59 pounds and 61 inches; fish three was male, 70 pounds and 66 inches; fish four was male, 12 pounds and 41 inches; fish five was male, 28 pounds and 51 inches; and fish six was male, 28 pounds and 51 inches. Three of the six fish taken had been captured several times before by Michigan State University and DNR sturgeon researchers during either spring spawning runs or lake netting surveys.
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. It was deemed a very successful season for angler participation, fish harvest, quick response times, and from a safety perspective. Rehabilitation of lake sturgeon in the Cheboygan River watershed is a cooperative effort involving the Department of Natural Resources, the Black Lake Chapter of Sturgeon For Tomorrow, Michigan State University and Tower-Kleber Limited Partnership.
The lake sturgeon, a remnant of the dinosaur age, is considered a species of special concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service , a threatened species in North America by the American Fisheries Society , a globally rare species by the Nature Conservancy, and a threatened species in the State of Michigan.
The lake sturgeon population in Michigan is estimated to be about one percent of its former abundance. The Huron-Erie corridor was, at one time, one of the most productive waters for lake sturgeon in North America.