Ohio explores return of sturgeon to Lake Erie
Written by Associated Press   
Sunday, 02 March 2014 07:25

PORT CLINTON, Ohio (AP) — Ohio's wildlife agency wants to know if can spur the revival of a rare fish once so plentiful in Lake Erie that they were burned for fuel in steamships.

Sturgeon were thought to be all but gone from Lake Erie less than two decades ago, but there are still a few spotted each year. Now the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is looking into whether it can reintroduce breeding populations of sturgeon to the lake.

"There's been quite a movement to reintroduce sturgeon, as well as protecting their populations on the Great Lakes," said Chris Vandergoot, fisheries biologist supervisor at the department's research station in Sandusky.

The idea is tied to restoring threatened and endangered species because of improving water quality, he told the Port Clinton News-Herald (http://ohne.ws/1dAxXLT ).

The fish, which are protected in just about every state where they're found, were overfished and nearly disappeared in the early 1900s despite being so abundant.

What makes the sturgeon so interesting to environmentalists and anglers is their size and appearance.

They're covered with bony plates and often called "living fossils." Lake sturgeon can grow to 200 pounds.

"They have a very simple body structure," Vandergoot said. "Everybody loves them. They're a pretty hardy species."

Ohio wildlife officials say they now get 15 to 20 reports a year of sturgeon in Lake Erie. The agency thinks they are juveniles swimming down from the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River in Michigan, where there are healthy spawning populations, Vandergoot said.

The natural resources department would not reintroduce the sturgeon as a game fish. Instead, they would be a piece of the lake's ecosystem, he said.

"It just fits into the big picture," Vandergoot said.

Rick Unger, a charter boat captain who has been fishing for 53 years, said he's never seen a sturgeon in Lake Erie.

"They belong here," he said.

___

Information from: Port Clinton News-Herald, http://www.portclintonnewsherald.com


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