The following is from the Sturgeon Falls newspaper, the Tribune:
Fascinating facts on the sturgeon
• Lake Sturgeon is the largest freshwater fish in North America.
• They are an ancient species whose fossils date back to the Cretaceous Period (over 65 million years ago).
• The largest Lake Sturgeon on record was over 2.4 m [7’,11”] in length and 140 kg [310 lbs]
• A 94.3 kg [208 lb] Sturgeon taken from Lake of Woods in 1953 was estimated to be 154 years of age (born in 1799).
• The largest Sturgeon caught on Lake Nipissing, weighed 88.9 kg [196 lbs] (Umbrella Island, 1955).
• Lake Sturgeon are bottom-feeders, eating small creatures that live on the bottom such as shad fly larvae, crayfish, mussels, leeches and worms.
• In Lake Nipissing, males start spawning at age 16, while females start at age 20. Females usually spawn only once every 6 years. Because they take so long to mature and do not spawn every year, they are more vulnerable to overharvest and habitat problems than most other species.
• Lake Sturgeon was fished commercially on Lake Nipissing for almost 100 years. This fishing took its toll, as did the habitat destruction at their spawning site on the Sturgeon River. Catches dropped drastically from a high of 191,000 lbs (86,636 kg) in 1903 to just over 800 lbs (362 kg) in 1990. The fishery is now closed and assessments initiated in 2001, indicate it has begun to recover.
• MNR and NFN assessments are conducted at Chapman’s Chutes (South River) and Sturgeon Falls. Each Sturgeon is identified by a microchip, with its own unique identification number. Fish are measured, weighed, and identified as to sex.
Apopt a Sturgeon
By Allison Loranger Tribune
The Sturgeon River’s namesake fish remains a bit of mystery; after having nearly disappeared from over harvesting, it has made a comeback in recent years but its population has not been assessed or studied. Now, area stakeholders are undertaking a research program to assess the health of the sturgeon population, and they are asking for the public’s support through an Adopt A Sturgeon program.
The Greater Nipissing Stewardship Council (GNSC) in conjunction with Nipissing First Nation’s Natural Resources Department is beginning the work this month at the Sturgeon River, below the power dam in Sturgeon Falls.
John Thornton, Council Chair, explains that the program has run in the past, but this is the first time it will be running in Sturgeon Falls.
“Previously (…) the Ministry of Natural Resources ran it on the South River,” he said.
According to Thornton, the MNR felt they had sufficient data from there, so Nipissing First Nation decided it was time to focus on the Sturgeon River. The program aims to assess the health of the adult sturgeon population by gathering data on the age, size, sex and number of spawning fish
“What they do is they set a net below the power house for approximately 1 hour, they pull up the net and then any Sturgeon that they’ve caught, they measure and weigh and may take a fin sample, (…) then they put a pit tag in it,” explains Thornton.
For a donation of $100, individuals or groups are provided with the opportunity to observe the tagging operation.
Adopters receive a certificate with a photo of them holding their fish, along with biological information and a tag number. When the fish is recaptured in subsequent assessments, participants will receive an update on their fish so they can follow its progress.
Thornton says the timing will be determined by the sturgeon themselves, who have to “decide that the conditions are right for them to spawn.”
According to Thornton, this usually occurs in early June because the water temperature has to reach approximately 10 degrees Celsius. But this year, with the early spring, they are not exactly sure whether the schedule has been thrown off.
Although they are waiting on the sturgeon to start collecting data, the group is already collecting donations from people who want to adopt a fish.
“These donations support our ongoing efforts to raise the public’s awareness about this fascinating and mysterious fish”, concludes ThorntoInterested participants are asked to contact the Council at email@example.com
Ontario Bans Sturgeon Fishing
Posted By JACK POIRIER, THE CANADIAN PRESS
June 28, 2008
A south-western Ontario fishery operator is shocked by the province's decision to ban sturgeon fishing. Tim Purdy of Purdy's Fisheries expressed disbelief at Friday's announcement, saying his staff has worked with government officials to bring back Canada's largest and longest-lived fresh water species.
The McGuinty government said Friday recreational anglers will no longer be allowed to keep any lake sturgeon caught after July 1, and commercial fishing quotas will be reduced to zero in 2009. Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield said in a release that over harvesting lake sturgeon is a serious threat to its sustainability.
The harvest and illegal sale of sturgeon has increased recently, in part due to the collapse of the Caspian Sea's sturgeon fishery and demand for sturgeon caviar, the ministry said.
Monday, the fish will be listed as a species of special concern in Ontario.
The Point Edward Company has invested time and money developing a sustainable product to be proud of, Purdy said. We have bent over backward to work with government. We have never heard any comment but thanks for our efforts from them." Purdy said he's miffed that commercial operators are being punished. The industry has collaborated with the government for years on monitoring sturgeon stocks in Lake Huron, he said.
The Ontario Commercial Fisheries' Association said existing sturgeon quotas are small. Disappointment doesn't begin to cover how we feel about this," said executive director Peter Meisenheimer. This is a pointless, unfair decision that will do permanent damage to efforts to conserve sturgeon in Ontario."
Without the help of people like Purdy, the government will be flying blind," Meisenheimer said.
Sarnia has an historic affiliation with lake sturgeon. A spawning site near the Blue Water Bridge is one of only two known on the Great Lakes, and the fish's bones have been recovered from First Nation hunting camps stretching back more than a thousand years.
The fish, sometimes called living dinosaurs" because of their prehistoric appearance, can grow to lengths of 2.5 metres and weigh up to 150 kilograms.
The History of the Lake Sturgeon on Lake Nipissing and the Upper French River
Prior to the 19th century, Sturgeon were thought to ruin the fish nets. As a result, steamships on the Great Lakes used Sturgeon as fuel instead of wood. This was due to the high oil content of the Sturgeon. They were also used as bait and for fertilizer.
By the early 1900s, Sturgeon were highly valued and their roe was highly sought. In 1903 commercial fishers caught 191,250 lbs. on Lake Nipissing. By 1989, the catch was only 672 lbs. Therefore in 1990 commercial fishing for Sturgeon was stopped on Lake Nipissing. (Richard Rowe)
29 May 1965, fishermen hauled in a total of 77 Sturgeon. This harvest reaped a total of 1827 pounds of the prehistoric species, in addition to 125 pounds of caviar. Sturgeon caviar now demands $125/lb. on the open market. (Photo West Nipissing Library)
The last two commercial Lake Sturgeon fishermen on Lake Nipissing pulled this Sturgeon, weighing more than 100 lbs., from their nets in the 1970s. At the time MNR biologist estimated the giant to be 200 years old. (North Bay Nugget)
Over-fishing as well as the pollution discharged from the paper mill in Sturgeon Falls and sewage from the town also affected the spawning grounds for the Sturgeon on the Sturgeon River. Since these two practices have come to an end and the area cleaned, there has been evidence of a slight recovery.