Streamside Rearing Facility Becomes Reality
By James Crossman & Christin Davis, MSU Graduate Students
The 2005 field season started off with a bang, that bang resulting from a 40 foot long steel building hitting the ground in early April. For the next month we became more engineers than biologists. It is amazing how such a project came together so quickly. With the help of Sturgeon For Tomorrow and a number of local residents we had the building constructed within 4 days of its arrival. Then came the pumps, tanks, and associated plumbing which would not have come together without the assistance of the Oden fish hatchery who supplied us with numerous man hours and tools. We can not express our gratitude enough to all those involved with getting this facility up and running.
When we finally got back to being biologists we had some great success and have learned a lot over the course of the summer. This year's weather cooperated very well and with the low water levels we had access to handle a very high proportion of this years spawning run. We took eggs from 14 females and to no ones surprise had no problem collecting milt from multiple males. Eggs were brought back to the stream side hatchery fertilized and incubated in heath trays. This resulted in offspring that hatched from 27 different families. We also transported half of the eggs down to the Wolf Lake State hatchery were they were incubated and are currently being raised. We learned a lot about incubating sturgeon eggs this year and have come up with the ultimate formula for a successful hatch. Just the right mix of AAA batteries for your head lamp, mixed with some elbow grease, patience, and 18 hours a day sorting and removing dead eggs or ones with fungus does wonders for a successful hatch. Lucky for us the eggs hatched within a week.
Artificial spawning was one of three collection methods we used this year. We also collected eggs from the water column and substrate that were fertilized naturally and incubated those at the stream side hatchery. The third collection method consisted of collecting larvae dispersing downstream from the spawning sites. Each of these collection methods are separated within our tanks so that we can follow differences in growth and survival. It has been interesting to observe the differences between families. Some grow well in high numbers while others don't. Some families are all the same size while others have big guys, medium guys and some runts. To date the fish in the hatchery range from 2 inches to just over 5 inches.
On July 20th we released the first batch of fish just above spawning site B. There were approximately 4000 in total, half from Wolf Lake and half from our stream side hatchery. Each fish was distinctly marked with a florescent tag on their upper back so when re-captured we could identify the collection method it originated from as well as the location where it was reared. Preliminary data shows the stream side fish moving further downstream faster however once the fish started to settle out we had a hard time finding them. The next release will be August 16th. Over the next few years we hope to identify the most appropriate age at which to release juvenile lake sturgeon. We will also be holding a number of fish from both Wolf Lake and Black Lake until late fall when they are big enough to receive acoustic transmitters. We will use these transmitters to look at differences in movements between the fish reared downstate and the fish reared in the natal water.
In closing we would like to once again thank all the help we have received this summer. Sturgeon for Tomorrow, the DNR, and the local residents have made for a fantastic and eventful summer.
2005 Field Season Highlights and Review Simply Exceptional
By Patrick Forsythe, Graduate Student, Michigan State University
We began the 2005 field season with many research objectives, each designed to build on data collected during previous field seasons. Some of these included: 1) capturing adult lake sturgeon to provide a long-term evaluation of annual spawning stock abundance, sex ratios, size and age class structure, and spawning frequencies, 2) determining the initial distribution of recently deposited lake sturgeon eggs, 3) monitoring changes in the distribution over time and estimating total egg loss, and 4) estimating the initial abundance of recently hatched larval lake sturgeon and the magnitude of loss during initial downstream drift. The paragraph below includes just a sample of some research highlights from this past field season.
A total of 154 lake sturgeon were captured and tagged, 46 females and 108 males. This represents the largest number of fish captured since spawning surveys were initiated. Of the 46 females, 33 were untagged and 13 had been tagged during previous spawning runs. Of the 108 males captured, 45 were untagged and 63 had been tagged previously. Nearly half of all fish (49.4%) in the 2005 spawning run were recaptures. Up to this point, we have tagged a total of 423 unique individuals (257 males, 166 females). We were able to determine that a dramatic loss of eggs occurs over time based on systematic kicknet sampling below known spawning locations. Further analysis should reveal how the distribution of eggs changes over time and if egg retention is associated with certain stream habitat types such as larger rocks or certain river flows. It is also now clear that fungal infection is a major source of mortality at the egg stage. Larval drift samples were deployed and monitored at two locations on the Upper Black River (Upstream Site: below spawning Site C; Downstream Site: traditional larval site). Sampling was conducted during a 5 hour timeframe, beginning at dusk (9:00-10:00 pm) and ending in the early morning (2:00-3:00 am). Majority of the larval fish were captured during several "peak" hours of activity within a sampling evening (between 10:00 pm and 1:00 am). Overall, a total of 7,434 larval lake sturgeon were captured and transported to the Wolf Lake and Black Lake fish hatcheries for release later this summer and fall. Based on initial analysis, it appears that at least some loss of lake sturgeon occurs during drift and that mortality could be related to the body size of an individual.
In conclusion, 2005 was an exceptional year for the Black Lake sturgeon population in terms of the level of recruitment observed, and for increasing our understanding of previously unknown aspects of this species' biology and reproductive ecology! Information obtained on each of the research objectives outlined above is critical to understanding the factors that are potential barriers to lake sturgeon reproductive success.
Once again, I would like to thank all members of Sturgeon For Tomorrow for providing continual support and encouragement for this research project. I would also like to thank the Michigan DNR for providing funding, equipment and assistance in the field.
From Our President
The continuing success of Sturgeon For Tomorrow demonstrates that you, our members, care deeply about Michigan's lake sturgeon.
We wish to thank each of you who have given generously to support our programming.
Or, you may be one of the hundreds of volunteers who have volunteered your time, talents and resources to advance our vision.
Our success, is most certainly, your success.
In Memory of Andy Manny
In Memory of Marvin Meitz
In Memory of Clifford Shephard
Arbor Ridge Builders, LLC
Ken and Cathy Borowicz
Willis E. Brown
Coffman Hardware/Dennis Mikus
Gary Goodall I and Gary Goodall II
Darst and Peg Grund
Paul A. Hense
Kurt and Gabe Jones
Christopher and Joni Kallgren
James and Mary Knight
Robert C. Livo
Joseph T. Rentz
Roy and Margaret Sjoberg
Steve and Alishia Sanford
Vic and Cheryl Schasfnitz
Richard and Jean Shoquist
David and Linda Steenstra
Dan L. Thoms
Gerald and Patsy Williams
Carl and Dorothy Woosley
President, Sturgeon For Tomorrow
Black Lake, Michigan Chapter
Black Lake Association working to study water quality.
The Black Lake Association (BLA) has contracted with the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council (TOTMWC) to perform Aquatic Vegetation and Shoreline Surveys.
The Aquatic Vegetation Study will identify types of weed growth, and the TOTMWC will provide recommendations for control of any invasive weeds found.
The Shoreline Survey will document physical shoreline conditions and other factors that may be affecting water quality. Examples of parameters that are commonly documented in shoreline surveys include shoreline type (seawalls, natural, etc., shoreline erosion, presence of cladophora (filmentous green algae that serves as a bio-indicator of nutrient pollution, green belts, fisheries habitat information, and more.
Thank you to all of our Sturgeon Guards who participated in the 2005 Sturgeon Guarding Program
A special THANK YOU goes out to Cheryl Haapapuro, Volunteer Coordinator for scheduling our Sturgeon Guards.
Black Lake Watershed
The Black Lake Watershed is well known for its recreational opportunities and aesthetic appeal. Boating, swimming, and fishing are popular activities among year-round residents, seasonal residents, and tourists. Not only is Black Lake itself heavily utilized, but many tourists come to the area to enjoy the Pigeon River Country, hunting, fishing, and canoeing/kayaking opportunities afforded by the Black River.
Black Lake is considered an excellent fishery resource. The Lake is famous for its population of lake sturgeon that is self-sustaining and can be fished during a brief season. The Lake's fishery also includes muskellunge, northern pike, yellow perch, walleye, and bass.
The Black Lake Watershed is large, encompassing 547 square miles or 350,000 acres. It comprises 37.7 percent of the 1,461-square-mile Cheboygan River Watershed. Black Lake's Watershed is 35.04 times larger than the surface area of the Lake (a ratio of 35.04:1, or simply 35.04). This is fairly high for large lakes in Northern Michigan. For example, the watershed-to-surface area ratio for Burt Lake is 14.8 and for Mullett Lake, only 9.
Upcoming Meetings & Events
BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING'S
Board of Director's Meeting's are held every 3rd Thursday of the month beginning at 7:00 p.m. at the Black Lake Sportsman's Club. All members and prospective members are welcome to attend.
- August 16 Second sturgeon fingerling release - Upper Black River
- September 5 - Labor Day
- September 7 - Deadline for Early Bird Drawing - 6th Annual SFT Banquet
- September 17 - 6th Annual SFT Banquet - Cheboygan
- October - Begin sturgeon fingerling telemetry study - Black Lake
- October 30 - Daylight Savings Time Ends - Turn your clocks back 1 hour
- November 8 - Election Day
- November 11 - Veterans Day
- November 15 - Deer Season - Northern Michigan's Largest Buck Pole - Indian River
- November 24 - Happy Thanksgiving!
- December 2-4 NE MI Sportsman's Show - Onaway
- December 25 - Merry Christmas
Black Lake 2005 Fisheries Survey
$10 REWARD FOR TAGGED FISH
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources started a project in 2001 to obtain much needed information about the states fisheries. In 2005, Black Lake (Cheboygan and Presque Isle Counties) will be surveyed as part of the project.
The main objective of the project is to estimate population size, annual sport harvest, growth rates, population age structure, and movement dynamics of walleye and northern pike. In addition, we collect information on various other fish species present.
Our tagging survey effort takes place in the early spring and consists of intensive netting and electrofishing operations. We attempt to capture, tag, and release about 10% of the legal-size walleye (=15"), northern pike (=24"), muskellunge (=42"), and occasionally smallmouth bass (=14") in a lake. We then track recoveries of tagged fish with a year-long creel survey and by voluntary tag returns. We also collect spine, fin ray, and scales samples to determine fish ages. In addition to the spring survey, we will be conducting a summer survey for a variety of physical and biological indicators.
Fish are marked with a metal jaw tag (see photo below) that will have either a 5- or 6-digit number, or a "T" followed by 4 digits. Approximately ½ of tags are denoted as having a monetary reward ($10). If you catch a tagged fish, please fill out a tag return form (provided at access sites) and either send it to the address given, give it to the creel clerk working on the lake, or you may complete a form on-line www.michigandnr.com/FISH/TAGGEDFISH.ASP