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MILWAUKEE — More than 1,100 lake sturgeon will be released into Lake Michigan by Department of Natural Resources fisheries crews who helped raise the fish and the public who are encouraged to take part in this annual celebration.

The event takes place on Saturday, Sept. 28, with registration at 11 a.m. Prior to release, the sturgeon will be blessed by a member of the Oneida Nation. The stocking of the 6-to-8-inch fish, aimed at helping restore a self-sustaining population of lake sturgeon to Lake Michigan, will occur at 12:30 p.m. at the dock located at the north end of Lakeshore State Park.

“This is an important step on the long road to restoring lake sturgeon to Lake Michigan,” said Brad Eggold, DNR Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team supervisor. "We hope these fish, and the ones stocked in previous years, will survive and thrive and ultimately help bring this magnificent fish back."

The fish were raised in the Milwaukee River through the efforts of the Riveredge Nature Center to operate a streamside rearing facility. A streamside rearing facility is basically a mini-hatchery. Water is drawn from the Milwaukee River, pumped into sand filters and then into an 8- foot by 20- foot trailer. The trailer has four fish raceways capable of holding 1,200 lake sturgeon when full. In the past, stockings were from lake sturgeon raised at the Wild Rose Fish Hatchery. The primary benefit of using a streamside rearing facility for lake sturgeon is that they will be raised on a native water source throughout their entire early life.

"This will maximize their ability to imprint to this water source and greatly improve the odds that, at maturity, the sturgeon will return to Lake Michigan to spawn, which is the ultimate goal,” Eggold said.

"Without the cooperation of the Riveredge Nature Center staff and its volunteers, we wouldn’t have any fish to stock. They’ve provided the location for the trailer and more importantly, the support for the day-to-day operation of the facility,” he added.

Lake sturgeon can grow to 200 pounds and live 100 years. Female sturgeon don’t start spawning until they are 25 to 30-years-old and males start at about age 15. Getting to adulthood will be a challenge for the sturgeon. DNR surveys reveal good habitat for young fish, overwintering and spawning areas, but the lake sturgeon must first survive these initial months, and then subsequent years of eluding predators and finding sufficient food. Recent gill net surveys completed by the DNR caught 10 juvenile lake sturgeon ranging from two to four-years-old. This indicates that fish raised at the facility and stocked in the Milwaukee River are surviving and using the harbor and nearshore areas as nursery grounds. These are the first sturgeon caught by DNR crews that were raised in the streamside trailer.

The sturgeon stocking project is funded through a cooperative effort among agencies and public partners. Wisconsin DNR, the Great Lakes Fishery Trust and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provide the majority of the funding.

For more details, check out the Riveredge Nature Center website at http://riveredge.us. Click on the link for “Sturgeon Fest 2013.”

More on sturgeon season: More headlines and video | Tweets collected during the season | Browse photos from the 2013 season | Browse photos from the 2012 season | Share your sturgeon photos | Watch cameras on the Wolf River | Watch cameras positioned in Stockbridge

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