Sturgeon for Tomorrow is seeking volunteers to join in its effort, in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement Division, to help protect sturgeon from poaching.
Each spring, mature lake sturgeon—a fish species that is threatened in Michigan and rare throughout the United States—become vulnerable to poaching as they briefly leave Black Lake in Cheboygan County for spawning sites in the Black River. Hundreds of volunteers stand guard at these sites during the spawning season, from late April through late May, to report any suspicious activity and deter the unlawful take of this prized fish.
“For over a decade, the Sturgeon Guarding Program has proven that citizens who watch over the river have greatly reduced poaching and helped ensure the protection and growth of the species,” said Ann Feldhauser, a Department of Natural Resources retiree and the program’s volunteer coordinator. “It’s a unique and rewarding experience – to witness the spectacular sight of these majestic fish, which can live up to 100 years and weigh over 200 pounds, swimming up into the Black River and to take part in safeguarding one of Michigan’s most valuable natural resources.”
When spawning begins, sturgeon guards are assigned to sites along the river in shifts. The volunteers stand watch and, if necessary, use cellular phones provided by Sturgeon for Tomorrow (SFT), to contact DNR conservation officers who are actively patrolling the area in support of the SFT effort.
Various shifts are available for those who wish to get involved, and coordinators will be on-site to assist and answer questions. In addition to guarding the fish, volunteers can also play a key role by recording the number and activity of fish they see.
Individuals or groups interested in volunteering should contact Ann Feldhauser at 906-201-2484 or register online at www.sturgeonfortomorrow.org.
For those traveling from outside the local area, several hotels, restaurants and Onaway State Park, located on Black Lake, are very close to the critical guarding locations. Volunteers also are encouraged to set up their rustic camp along the banks of the Black River.
Lake sturgeon rehabilitation in the Cheboygan River watershed is a cooperative effort involving the Black Lake Chapter of SFT, the DNR, Michigan State University and Tower-Kleber Limited Partnership. In addition to the guarding program, this effort includes activities such as tagging sturgeon adults and raising young fish for stocking.