Illustration by Joseph R. Tomelleri ©
Acipenser fulvescens - scientific name
(Native Fish) A notable characteristic is the five rows of bony plates (scutes) that are well developed in young fish but less distinguishable in adults. Lake Sturgeon have a large protrusible, suctorial mouth on the bottom side of the head with four barbels in front of the mouth and beneath the snout. The barbels are sensory organs that assist the sturgeon in finding prey on the river and lake bottoms. Lake Sturgeon have a single dorsal fin located far back near the caudal (tail) fin. The tail upper lobe is much larger than the rounded lower lobe. Lake Sturgeon have scales but not the cycloid scales associated with most bony fishes, rather they are covered by the much stronger ganoid scales. Juvenile Lake Sturgeon are a sandy brown color with black mottling and spots, while adults are olive-brown to grey with white underneath.
Anglers who harvest a lake sturgeon must register their harvest within 24 hours (see below for registration options. Lake sturgeon harvest is limited to one (1) per year per angler. Harvest of lake sturgeon is limited to the waters below as indicated.
Lake Sturgeon are benthivores (meaning they eat prey from the bottom of waterbodies), feeding mostly on small invertebrates such as insect larvae, crayfish, snails, clams and leeches.
Sexual maturity in females is reached between 14 and 33 years, most often from 24 to 26 years and 12 to 17 years for males. Generally, female Lake Sturgeon spawn once every three to seven years while males spawn every one to four years. Spawning occurs on clean, gravel shoals and stream rapids from mid-April to late May in preferred water temperatures of 55 to 64 degrees F. Female Lake Sturgeon may lay 4,000 to 7,000 eggs per pound of fish. The typical life-span of Lake Sturgeon is 55 years but individuals over 100 years old have been found. The current state record for a legally harvested Lake Sturgeon is 193 pounds taken from Mullett Lake (Cheboygan County). Sturgeon greater than 300 pounds have been observed in the Great Lakes Basin.
Efforts are currently underway in the Great Lakes Basin to restore sturgeon populations and reclaim the historic connection between this fish and people. Since the early-2000's Federal, State and Tribal agencies have partnered in rehabilitating Lake Sturgeon through the use of Streamside Rearing Facilities. In these facilities sturgeon eggs and larvae are reared in the waters which they will be released with hopes the fish will imprint and home back to their natal waters. In each facility sturgeon are reared to a size where they are likely to survive and be less vulnerable to predators. Each year thousands of sturgeon are released during public ceremonies and gatherings.
Department of Natural Resources