General United States World

A 100 Year Old Fish from Detroit River Trolls the Globe

Photo from the Fish and Wildlife Service Office

End of last month, a biologist working off of Michigan-based Fish and Wildlife Service Office went to Detroit River with his crews to survey the lake sturgeon population. The team put out set-lines with hooks to catch fishes, searched for eggs, and larvae but instead caught a huge sturgeon measuring 7 feet long, at least 240 pounds, indicating that it was an almost 100-year-old female sturgeon.

It is the largest lake sturgeon ever recorded in the country. According to the Facebook posting of Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, the sturgeon is a “once in a lifetime catch,” and “likely hatched in the Detroit River around 1920, when Detroit became the 4th largest city in America.”

“When it’s in the water, you don’t have that great reference for size until you actually try to get the net on it,” Fischer said. “Our basket’s like four or five feet deep, and this fish wouldn’t fit in the net. … It only got bigger when we got it on the boat. It took all three of them to lift it up out of the water and get it on the boat, an effort that was exhausting,” Fischer said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife team weighed the fish, measured the fish, put a chip into the fish, and after processing all their work, released her to the water. The current sturgeon population is 7,000 but was once near a million when Detroit was a booming city in the early 1920s and on.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service annually reports the sturgeon population at the St. Clair-Detroit River system to better understand the lake sturgeon population began in 2001.  The lake sturgeon, considered a threatened species in Michigan, has endured a lot — from a boom in commercial fishing that continued into the early 1900s, periods of over-harvesting, and habitat loss driven by shipping channel construction and the damming of tributaries. All of that contributed to declines in population, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

There are now more than 33,000 lake sturgeon in the St. Clair-Detroit River system, 6,500 of which come from the Detroit River, according to Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, which describes that as a “fraction of its historic size.”

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