Population characteristics and movements of Lake Sturgeon in the Sturgeon River and Lake Superior

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A 2.6-km reach of the Sturgeon River, containing two sets of rapids, is an important spawning site to a native population of lake sturgeon, Acipenser fulvescens, which ranges widely into southern Lake Superior. Similar spawning areas in other Great Lake tributaries may also be important to the protection and rehabilitation of lake sturgeon throughout this region. Information on range and habitat needs of this species, which is considered 'threatened' in the State of Michigan, was obtained from the Sturgeon River spawning population from 1987 to 1995. Radio-tracking was employed to determine movements and habitat use by post-spawning lake sturgeon. Telemetry data from 25 fish were supplemented with data obtained through identification tag returns. During the study 925 lake sturgeon were handled; 86 returned to spawn 1 time and 12 returned 2 times. Spawning intervals for male lake sturgeon were commonly 2, 3, or 4 years; yearly spawning by males was never observed. Females returned to spawn after 3 to 7 years. From 1991 to 1995 the male:female sex ratio at the spawning site was 1.25 to 2.7. In 1990 13 of 18 adults fitted with transmitters moved out of the river within 9 days. Upon reaching Portage Lake nine individuals spent time in Shallow (maximum depth, 6 m) Pike Bay. After 3 to 53 days (mean, 22) tagged fish moved into the deeper water of Portage Lake (maximum depth, 17 m) and ranged more widely. Three fish were located in Keweenaw Bay, Lake Superior by late August. Identification tag returns reveal that lake sturgeon traveled 70 to 280 km from the spawning site throughout southern Lake Superior.

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Journal of Great Lakes Research