BLACK LAKE - After three days of fishing, the 2013 Black Lake sturgeon spearing season is over.
Six lucky spearers got a fish, three on Saturday, one on Sunday and two on Monday, Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division Northern Lake Huron Unit Supervisor Dave Borgeson said. The season came to a close at 12:16 p.m. after the final fish was taken.
"It was one of those deals where the fish weren't really moving that much," he said.
The largest sturgeon was a 66-inch-long, 67-pound female, the second one taken for the season, Borgeson said. It was speared on Sunday, the same day as a 39-inch-long, 11-pound male, the first and smallest fish. One tagged male, the fifth fish to be caught, had been spotted by biologists in Black River at least five times during the spring spawn.
"There's quite a different size range," he said. "We saw a few smaller ones, some other mid-size and bigger ones, so we had a pretty good cross-section of the population."
DNR employees took a pectoral fin ray from the fish, both as a way to check their ages and to get DNA samples, Borgeson said. By analyzing their genetic material, biologists can investigate their parentage and see which fish are contributing to the lake's population.
More than 260 people registered to take part in the season, a jump from last year's numbers, Borgeson said. He credited the increase to a higher sturgeon quota. While this year's sturgeon spearers could take a season total of six, they were limited to two fish last year due to an overcatch in the previous year.
Brenda Archambo, Sturgeon for Tomorrow Black Lake Chapter president, said she expected the numbers to be even higher. She believes bad roads kept some away. The start of another lake sturgeon season in Wisconsin this weekend could be another factor.
"A lot of people go to Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin (for) sturgeon fishing," she said. "They're pretty much guaranteed to get a fish out there."
The quota for Lake Winnebago is considerably higher, with the season limit numbering in the thousands, Archambo said.
"Our vision is that we could have a world-class fishery, too," she said. "We might not have it in our lifetime, but we're setting the stage and building the foundation for that in terms of Mullett, Burt and Black lakes."
Sturgeon for Tomorrow is working with the DNR and Michigan State University biologists to stock fish in the three lakes, Borgeson said. Last year, a hatchery set up alongside the Black River had a very successful run and the DNR were able to stock more than 3,200 sturgeon in Black Lake.
"Also, because we had such a good year rearing fish, we stocked 1,600 fish in Burt Lake and 1,600 fish in Mullett Lake," he said.
Surveys of lake sturgeon populations in Burt and Mullett lakes done in the past few years showed good numbers of young fish, Borgeson said. While every fish surveyors found were tagged, the survey results showed that stocked fish are surviving in the lakes. The DNR has a similar survey planned for Black Lake this year to see how well younger fish are surviving.
Sturgeon for Tomorrow organized a revival of the Sturgeon Shivaree, two days of events focused on having fun and letting people know about the efforts to help the sturgeon population, Archambo said. The event was a runaway success, and based on pin and wristband sales she's estimating more than 1,500 people attended.
"It was quite an undertaking and it was a really heavy lift, I can tell you that," she said, "but what I thought was really cool was, people would come up to me and say, 'Thank you for bringing the Shivaree back,' and would share their memories."
Proceeds from the celebration will help fund operations at the sturgeon hatchery, and Archambo said she's grateful for the help from sponsors and about 100 volunteers. The event will return next year for the sturgeon season.
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5688.