Lake sturgeon www.miseagrant.umich.edu
Lake sturgeon were historically abundant in all of the Great Lakes.
They served as an important food source for many Native American
tribes. When European settlers arrived in the region, sturgeon were so
numerous during the spring spawning run that they were reportedly
capable of capsizing fishing boats.
Life History Habitat Restoration
Lake sturgeon are nearshore fish that live at Today, the State of Michigan prohibits com-
water depths of 15 to 30 feet. They feed along mercial fishing for lake sturgeon and closely
lake bottoms, eating a variety of small animals regulates sturgeon sport fishing. A limited
including snails, crustaceans, aquatic insects, number of sportfishing licenses are issued each
mussels, and small fish. Most lake sturgeon year. In some areas of the state, volunteers
caught today weigh between 30 and 100 help monitor spring spawning runs to protect
pounds and grow three to six feet in length. sturgeon from being taken illegally.
Lake sturgeon live longer than any other fish Other management efforts focus on tracking Contact
species in Michigan. Male lake sturgeon live sturgeon migration and identifying the location
an average of 55 years. Females live 80 to 150 of remaining spawning grounds. Restoration Assistant Director, Research Coordinator
years. Despite their long lives, sturgeon are slow efforts involve creating and protecting sturgeon firstname.lastname@example.org
to mature. It takes between 8 and 12 years habitat to enhance spawning success. (734) 936-3622
for male lake sturgeon to reach reproductive
maturity and 20 to 25 years for females. Belle Isle Habitat Project
In early spring, adult sturgeon enter fast The Detroit River ecosystem supports a remnant
flowing rivers to spawn. Female lake sturgeon population of lake sturgeon. In 2004, Michigan
spawn once every four years, each depositing Sea Grant led a consortium of federal, state
millions of eggs on gravel bars. It is estimated and private groups in the construction of three
that only about 10 to 20 percent of adult lake sturgeon spawning reefs in the waters off Belle Michigan Sea Grant College Program
Michigan Sea Grant is a cooperative program of
sturgeon spawn during a given year. Isle. The project represents the largest effort to the University of Michigan and Michigan State
date to restore a primitive, wild fish within a University. Funding: NOAA-National Sea Grant
College Program with matching funds from
major urban area in the Great Lakes region. The the University of Michigan and Michigan State
reefs are made of limestone rock, cobblestone, University. Michigan State University and the
Take the Lake Sturgeon Quiz University of Michigan are equal opportunity/
and coal cinders—materials used by spawning
and see related standards based lake sturgeon in other areas of the Great Lakes.
affirmative action institutions.
curriculum on the back of this sheet. Biologists monitor the reefs to assess sturgeon
For more information, see: www.miseagrant.umich.edu/sturgeon
Lake sturgeon quiz
Multiple Choice True or False Fish of the Great Lakes
Female sturgeon produce about how The State of Michigan prohibits com- Standards-based Activity:
many eggs? mercial fishing for lake sturgeon and Working with a set of Great Lakes fish
closely regulates sturgeon sport fishing. cards, students identify distinguishing
a) One hundred (100) characteristics of fish and organize
b) Eighty thousand (80,000) a) True the collection based on similarities
c) Four million (4,000,000) b) False and differences, as well as into an
interconnected food web.
The sturgeon’s oily swim bladder was The current lake sturgeon population
is estimated to be ten percent of its The Great Lakes and other lakes and
often processed to produce isinglass,
historic abundance in Michigan. rivers of the region are home to an
a type of gelatin used in making what
impressive variety of fish. Among the
type of product? a) True species are coldwater fishes like lake
a) Jello b) False trout and lake whitefish, and ancient
b) Beer and wine species such as sturgeon and gar.
People once burned huge piles of Students may be most familiar with
c) Soda pop warm-water fishes like sunfish and
sturgeon along the shores of the Detroit
River. They also used oily sturgeon car- bass. Each major family of fishes has
How many teeth do lake sturgeon have? traits that set it apart from others,
casses as fuel for passing steam ships.
a) Twenty eight (28) called distinguishing characteristics.
a) True These characteristics help fish survive
b) Twelve (12) in their environment. By observing and
c) Zero (0) comparing distinguishing characteristics,
Sturgeon have uneven or asymmetrical students begin to understand how fish,
What is the name of the Detroit River tails like those of sharks. like other animals, can be organized and
island closest to the sturgeon habitat classified into meaningful groups, and
project? a) True how these groups are interrelated in the
b) False aquatic food web.
a) Mackinac Island
b) Belle Isle When European settlers arrived in the See Fisheries Learning on the Web
c) Grosse Ile region, sturgeon were so numerous Download fish cards:
during the spring spawning run that www.miseagrant.umich.edu/flow/U3
Female sturgeon live to be how old? they were reportedly capable of
capsizing fishing boats. Grade level: 4-8
a) 80–150 years old Subjects: Science, social studies
b) 11 months old a) True Setting: Classroom
c) 15–25 years old b) False Duration: 30-60 minutes
Michigan Science Curriculum Standards:
I.1.1, 1.2, 1.5, 1.6
For the correct answers, see the sturgeon website at II.1.2, 1.3, 1.4
III.2.4, 4.2, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.5
Also see: advanced lesson, Fins, Tails
and Scales: Identifying Great Lakes Fish.