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Tuesday, January 26 • 1:40pm - 2:00pm
Lessons Learned Across Twenty Years of Lake Sturgeon Assessment

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AUTHORS: Michael Thomas*, Michigan Department of Natural Resources; Todd Wills, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

ABSTRACT: Staff at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Lake St. Clair Fishery Research Station first undertook assessment of the lake sturgeon population in the St. Clair-Detroit River System (SCDRS) in 1996. Since that time, more than 2,800 individual lake sturgeon have been tagged and released using a variety of gear types. Through 2014, a total of 375 unique sturgeon have been recaptured a combined 540 times, including 113 unique fish with multiple recaptures, one individual fish with 8 recaptures and 11 individuals with at least 4 recaptures recorded. Over this 20 year time period, a few lessons have been learned: Small data sets grow and what starts out manageable in Excel becomes unmanageable. Sampling in these large connecting channels is difficult and evolution or adaptation of survey methods across time can be a challenge for both record keeping and data analysis. Sturgeon are more abundant in the SCDRS than we expected. Estimating population parameters for these long-lived, mobile fish in an open system spanning decades is challenging. Lake sturgeon are tough fish that can handle stress well and survive serious injuries. The power of interagency collaboration and partnerships for research and restoration across large systems can’t be overstated. Some needles in the haystack remain unfound. Repeat encounters with unique fish captured numerous times over many years provide insightful data. Despite much progress, there’s lots of remaining work. Population estimates based on expanding mark-recapture data and telemetry studies can be refined. Young-of-year and yearling distribution and habitat characterization remain critical unknowns. Telemetry-documented movements across management unit boundaries present a regulatory challenge for management agencies. Evaluation of habitat restoration efforts require long-term monitoring and continued interagency collaboration. These lessons have shaped the MDNR’s long-term lake sturgeon assessment program in the SCDRS and provided a solid foundation for management of this species.

Tuesday January 26, 2016 1:40pm - 2:00pm
Emerald B

Attendees (27)