Into the wild: LRBOI celebrates third largest sturgeon release to date

MANISTEE — More than 140 juvenile lake sturgeon started their 100-year journey on Saturday as part of the 16th annual Nmé Release.

A ceremony was held by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians (LRBOI) at Rainbow Bend Boat Launch in Manistee. The LRBOI Natural Resources Department reared and returned the native species back into the river as an effort to restore the population.

The large batch of lake sturgeon ranged from 6-9 inches long, and were handed to attendees in metal buckets to be released after a prayer was given. LRBOI Ogema Larry Romanelli gave a speech about the Nmé Release before a crowd of people on Saturday morning.

“When you understand the history of the fish, it’s amazing, they can get to be 6 feet and longer and they can live to be 100 years old,” he said. “So these people that are he

A juvenile lake sturgeon swims in a metal bucket prior to its release on Saturday. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

re today, who are allowed to put the fish in the water, this fish will grow up with them. It has taken on a life of its own.”

A large number of people attended the ceremony for the first time, as well.

“I am glad there are so many young people here to experience this,” Romanelli said. “Last year, we only had several fish because of the temperatures and the storms, so to have 140 fish is great. To

have almost that many people to match is also great. I am glad to know that the people in our community are coming out, not only our tribal members.”

The LRBOI Natural Resources Department started the streamside sturgeon rehabilitation program in 2004. The juvenile fish are collected from the wild in the springtime, and reared in a streamside facility until mature enough to be released.

Corey Jerome, LRBOI fisheries biologist, said after the fish spawn eggs and larvae are collected, the sturgeon are raised in river water. Fish are tagged prior to their departure for future evaluation.

This year’s release was the third largest in the program’s history. In the past, more than 300 sturgeon were released at one time.

“There were 145 fish this year, which equals out to be the third most that we have been able to release — so that’s a great accomplishment,” Jerome said. “It’s a great start for our new facility that helps our staff to be a little safer and remove from the weather when we are taking care of the fish.”

Jerome shared a highlight of this year’s season, detailing a sturgeon they found to be in its late 50s.

“In the spring we were sampling for adult fish to see what was returning back to the system. One fish we saw was a (sturgeon) that was sampled by Central Michigan originally in 2002,” he said. “At that point, they said that fish was born in 1960 — so that puts it at 59 years old. It was a mature female. It was going to be potentially a part of the spawning run that’s producing these fish that are here today.”

Before the release, people were invited to see the facility where the sturgeon were reared, and were able to interact with the species.

“Everyone gets to experience this and understand what we are doing here by putting the fish back in to the waters,” Romanelli said. “We use the same waters to establish these young fingerlings, and it’s kind of a process.”

Archie Martell, senior fisheries biologist with the LRBOI, thanked the team of people who make this effort a yearly success.

“I do want to give them a big thanks for making all of this happen up to this point,” Martell said.

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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