Genoa National Fish Hatchery was presented with the opportunity to culture lake sturgeon for restoration efforts into the Maumee River (Toledo, Ohio). As part of a multi-agency effort amongst the Toledo Zoo, USFWS, USGS, Ohio DNR, Michigan DNR, University of Toledo and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry lake sturgeon have been reintroduced to the Maumee River since 2018, a tributary of Lake Erie. Historically populations of lake sturgeon were abundant in the river; however they are no longer present. Research has shown that the Maumee River is a strong candidate for lake sturgeon reintroduction, providing suitable habitat for spawning adults and offspring. Southern Lake Huron (Upper St. Clair River) population was used as donor stock for this study. Recently lake sturgeon have been cultured in stream side rearing facilities in multiple locations along rivers that are Great Lakes tributaries to allow for sturgeon to imprint on natal water, with the hope of increasing site fidelity as a returning spawning adult. A sturgeon trailer was deployed near the Toledo Zoo in 2018 to raise 1500 lake sturgeon on Maumee River water and the Genoa National Fish Hatchery will raise 1500 lake sturgeon on hatchery water supply. To date 6,397 lake sturgeon have been stocked from Genoa into the Maumee River. Once fish are 7 inches at both locations, they are tagged with a PIT (passive integrated transponder) tag to monitor future growth and survival. This project calls for paired releases of sturgeon from both locations for 25 years to reach a target self-sustaining population. Adult returns to the river from the stocked population will be monitored to see if sturgeon cultured in a streamside rearing facility exhibit higher stocking site fidelity rates vs. fish cultured at offsite locations (Genoa National Fish Hatchery). In addition, researchers will assess post stocking survival rates between sturgeon cultured in a streamside facility and sturgeon reared in a traditional hatchery. Also, the streamside facility located on the Maumee River (Toledo Zoo) property serves as an exceptional place to engage the public in lake sturgeon restoration. The Toledo zoo incorporates lake sturgeon restoration and the streamside trailer into one of the exhibits open to the public.
By: Orey Eckes