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Volunteer group wants your help guarding sturgeon on the Black River this spring

DNR Fisheries Biologist Tim Cwalinski holds a sturgeon with Michigan State University students on the Black River.
MSU
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DNR Fisheries Biologist Tim Cwalinski holds a sturgeon with Michigan State University students on the Black River.

Lake sturgeon are a threatened species in Michigan. And there’s one spot in the state where the fish are in particular danger.

One group gets together every year to watch over them, and they want your help.

Most people never see this rare fish -- which is too bad, because they’re quite a sight. Lake sturgeon can live to be 100 years old and can weigh hundreds of pounds.

They spawn in several rivers in Michigan in the spring – but parts of the Black River in the northern-lower-peninsula are shallow, so you can see these fish as they swim upstream.

It means poachers can wade in and just pluck the fish out of the water. They’re after the meat and the sometimes the fish eggs. The row and be doctored up and sold as caviar on the black market.

The group Sturgeon for Tomorrow is organizing what they call a Sturgeon Guarding Program.

They get volunteers to fan out along the river and report any suspicious activity to nearby conservation officers.

Ann Feldhauser organizes the sturgeon guarding program for the group. She’s looking for people to come up north from now until the beginning of June. 

Here's her sales pitch:

“We encourage people to come up. Bring their tents. Bring their small trailers. Camp for a couple of days.  It’s a beautiful location. And just enjoy the beauty of the out of doors in a quiet, peaceful setting. And watch a remarkable, remarkable show of sturgeon spawning in the Black River. You’re never going to see anything like this anyplace else in Michigan.” 

Feldhauser says they need more people for this year’s effort. Sign up here. The guarding program on the Black River has been running for more than 16 years.

Mark Brush was Michigan Radio’s Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.