Maumee River Lake Sturgeon Reintroduction Program
Project Title
Post-release survival and movements of juvenile lake sturgeon stocked in the Maumee River
Project Code
Project Duration
October 2018 - October 2020
Project Description
Historically up to 16 Lake Sturgeon spawning populations existed throughout Lake Erie Lake; today spawning aggregations are only evident in the Detroit (western basin) and Niagara (eastern basin) rivers. Reintroducing Lake Sturgeon into tributaries where spawning populations once existed would support efforts to delist this endangered species in Ohio and throughout the Lake Erie basin. The Maumee River is a prime candidate for reintroduction and restoration because it historically supported a native Lake Sturgeon population. "Smith and Snell (1891:248) ...reported an early decrease of sturgeons in the Maumee River where "sturgeon once ran up the river by the hundreds as far as the rapids above Perrysburg, but at present (1885) ... are absent" in Fishes of Ohio, by Milton B. Trautman (1981). Further, habitat suitability models developed for spawning adult and age-0 Lake Sturgeon indicate sufficient habitat currently exists in the Maumee River. Therefore, both historic and contemporary conditions support the Maumee River as a strong candidate for a Lake Sturgeon restoration. A Maumee River restoration plan has been adopted by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and is supported by the other Lake Erie fishery management agencies. The Maumee River Lake Sturgeon Restoration Plan, represents a multi-agency approach to restoring this imperiled fish species to Lake Erie. The restoration plan calls for stocking Lake sturgeon fingerlings (3,000) annually for the next 25 years to attain a self-sustaining population of 1,500 sexually mature adults. Recent Lake Sturgeon restoration efforts in the Great Lakes basin use stocking juvenile Lake Sturgeon reared under traditional hatchery and stream-side rearing (i.e., on-river mobile hatcheries which incubate eggs and juveniles with the local river water source) facilities. An assumption of the stream-side rearing facilities is that stocked fish will migrate back to their natal origin as adults to spawn when sexually mature. Although numerous juvenile Lake Sturgeon stocking projects have been conducted throughout the Great Lakes basin, none of these studies have evaluated post-release survival or behavior of stocked fish. Information regarding post-stocking survival and behavior will help fishery managers adjust future stocking efforts (e.g., rearing technique and number of fish to stock to meet population goals). We propose to implant hatchery reared juvenile (age-0) Lake Sturgeon with acoustic transmitters prior to release (40 transmitters/ year for 3 years; n=120) and monitor short-term survival and behavior in the Maumee River and western basin of Lake Erie via mobile tracking and existing Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System receivers. This study will address the following research questions: do juvenile Lake Sturgeon reared in traditional or stream-side hatchery facilities show similar short-term survival rates after stocking, do juvenile Lake Sturgeon reared at traditional and stream-side facilities show similar post-release movement behaviors, and what type of habitat do juvenile Lake Sturgeon use after release.