BLACK LAKE - The 2013 lake sturgeon season for Black Lake is set for Feb. 2, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
State-licensed anglers can spear six Black Lake sturgeon in February, DNR Fisheries Management biologist Tim Cwalinski said. The number is higher than last year's limit, thanks to successful efforts to limit last year's catch on the lake in Presque Isle and Cheboygan counties.
Prior to registering, anglers must have a valid all-species fishing licence, and get a lake sturgeon tag from any DNR license vendor, according to the release.
Sturgeon anglers will have the opportunity to register the day before the season, much as last year, Cwalinski said. On Feb. 1 from 2-8 p.m., the Onaway Field Office at 2312 N. M-211 Road will be open for preregistration. Those who can't make it can register the following day, either at the entrance to Onaway State Park or at a DNR trailer where Zolner Road ends at the lake's west shore.
The season starts on Feb. 2 at 8 a.m., with sturgeon fishing hours ending at 2 p.m.,, Cwalinski said. The season will end immediately once the sixth sturgeon is caught. If less than five sturgeon have been caught by 2 p.m., the season will continue into the next day. The season could last through Feb. 6 if only four sturgeon have been caught as of 2 p.m. the day prior.
The lucky few who get a sturgeon must tag them immediately, and tell any DNR personnel on the ice, according to the release. Successful anglers must take the fish to the trailer at Zolner Road.
Once again, 14 sturgeon have been allocated for catch, Cwalinski said, with anglers licensed by the DNR splitting them with the five American Indian tribes listed in the 2007 Inland Consent Decree. These tribes are the Bay Mills Indian Community, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.
Each year's allocation is based on 1.2 percent of Black Lake's estimated mature sturgeon population, Cwalinski said. Michigan State University helps the DNR each spring, when a fraction of the mature fish swim up the Black River to spawn. While state-licensed anglers get half of the allocation, there's also a buffer to prevent over-catching. As such, the limit this year is set at six instead of seven.
"Once that estimate goes up, the number that can be allocated towards the harvest can go up," he said.
While this year's quota is the same as the 2012 season, anglers will have more of an opportunity because of a successful attempt to limit last year's catch, Cwalinski said. State-licensed sturgeon anglers could take only two due to an over-catch in the 2011 season.
"We took our pains last year, that's why we went with a smaller quota" in 2012, he said. "So now we're back to a more normal scenario this year."
Lake sturgeon can grow up to seven feet in length and weigh as much as 200 pounds, according to information from the DNR. These fish are slow to reach reproductive age, and not every mature fish spawns every year. Because of this, their populations are more prone to decline due to fishing and other factors.
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5688.