Sturgeon for Tomorrow Patrol Guards Spring Spawning GroundsApr 27th, 2011 | By Roy Rasmussen | Category: Green Living
Sturgeon are spawning in Wolf River, Wisconsin, the largest spawning grounds in the United States, and the Sturgeon for Tomorrow (SFT) patrol is on guard to protect them from poachers. Each year volunteers sign up for 12-hour shifts to stand watch at key locations between late and early May.
Sturgeon are the largest freshwater fish, commonly attaining lengths of 7 to 12 feet, and sometimes growing over 20 feet. They stand anatomically between sharks and the majority of bony fish, with a skeleton that is part cartilage and part bone. They are distinguished by their long bodies, lack of scales, bony plates, long snouts, small mouths with thick lips, and barbels under their mouths. The barbels help them find food on the bottom of lake and river beds. They use their long snouts like shovels to stir food up.
The sturgeon of Hudson Bay, the Great Lakes, and the Mississippi River, called lake sturgeon or rock sturgeon, can live up to 150 years, and females usually do not reach sexual maturity until they are 24 to 26 years old or older. They swim upstream to spawn. Females spawn only once every four or five years.
This slow reproduction cycle makes sturgeon supplies slow to recover from overfishing. Once so common they were thrown back by fishermen seeking other species, their numbers have dwindled enough that wildlife authorities have severely limited fishing seasons.
While spawning, sturgeon pay little attention to nearby human activity and are exceptionally vulnerable. Their eggs are prized for caviar, making them an attractive target for poachers.
In 1977 sturgeon enthusiasts from the Lake Winnebago area southeast of Green Bay, Wisconsin formed Sturgeon for Tomorrow to protect sturgeon from poaching. Since then the group has grown to four chapters and over 3,000 members and raised over $576,000 for sturgeon research and management. The group’s activities include the sturgeon patrol program, sturgeon population assessments, spawning and nursery site construction on the Wolf River, research supporting artificial lake sturgeon propagation, and special assessment equipment purchases.
For information about volunteering for Wisconsin’s Sturgeon for Tomorrow patrol program, visit http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/fish/sturgeon/sturgeon_guard.html. To learn more about Sturgeon for Tomorrow’s activities in Michigan, visit http://www.sturgeonfortomorrow.org/.