Although lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) were once abundant in all of the Great Lakes, over-fishing and the construction of dams that blocked spawning migrations have reduced populations to about 1% of their former abundance (MDNR 1998). Historic records from commercial fisheries of the late 19th century indicate that Lake Michigan once supported the largest known population, comprised of an estimated 11 million fish (MDNR 1998). Biologists now recognize that each of the Great Lakes are inhabited by many discrete stocks of lake sturgeon, however little is known about the abundance, distribution, recruitment, or genetic diversity of current populations. Although sturgeon research often generates intense interest and support from the media and the public knowledge of most sturgeon species is limited. In the Great Lakes, little is known about the basic ecology, life history, or population dynamics of lake sturgeon.
The primary goal of this study is to provide current information on the abundance, habitat use, and factors limiting spawning success (recruitment) of adult lake sturgeon in the Muskegon River. Data collected in this project will provide much of the basic information needed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) in their current efforts to rehabilitate lake sturgeon populations in Lake Michigan. Beginning in spring of 2002, we began a 3-year study of lake sturgeon in the Muskegon River with the following objectives:
The basic design of the study relies on the capture of adult lake sturgeon during their spring spawning migrations from Lake Michigan into (and out of) the Muskegon River. Although the timing of spawning migrations is somewhat variable, adult lake sturgeon usually begin entering the Muskegon River in late April or early May. Spawning activity peaks in mid to late May, with most adults leaving the river by mid-June. Ultimately, information gained through this project will help rehabilitate the population within the Muskegon and other Great Lakes Tributaries where lake sturgeon have suffered similar declines.
To learn more about Dr. Douglas Peterson and his work, visit his web page.