Sturgeon Protection & Research

Black Lake, Black River and the other lakes and rivers of the Inland Water Route are home to sturgeon that grow to more than six-feet in length and can weigh more than 100 pounds.

At one time, sturgeon populations dipped to precariously low levels, but the combined efforts of citizens groups, DNR and Tribal officials, university researchers and volunteers have not only protected the sturgeon population, but led to sturgeon research that has drawn worldwide attention.

The Black Lake Chapter of Sturgeon For Tomorrow formed in the late 1990s. Working with multiple agencies and volunteers it has been involved in numerous efforts to protect and enhance the sturgeon population and protect the sturgeon fishery that is part of the area's history.

When sturgeon swim up into the Black River to spawn in the spring, it's a great opportunity to see sturgeon, but it also makes them vulnerable to poaching. A sturgeon guarding program was initiated in which citizen volunteers camp and monitor the river and use cell phones to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement.

Research efforts have included capturing and tagging fish along with larval sampling and the addition of a riverside fish hatchery. The hatchery has allowed thousands of small sturgeon to be planted in area lakes over the past decade. It has also provided small sturgeon that area students have raised in a Sturgeon in the Classroom program. The Sturgeon in the Classroom program, along with hatchery tours and the guarding program have given people more knowledge and a greater appreciation for the role of sturgeon as a resource.

There continues to be a highly restricted, but popular sturgeon spearing season that takes place on Black Lake in early February. Based on sturgeon population surveys, a limited number of fish (less than 10) are allowed to be taken. When the target number is reached, the season ends.

In conjunction with the sturgeon season, Sturgeon For Tomorrow hosts the Black Lake Shivaree, a traditional winter festival on the ice of Burt Lake. Sturgeon For Tomorrow also hosts an annual fundraising dinner and auction in September. Due to COVID precautions, the next annual dinner has been scheduled for Sept. 11, 2021. Watch the website for a possible virtual fundraiser later in 2020. 

For more information on the organization and sturgeon research ONLINE