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Sturgeon Spawning Update from Ron Bruch

March 29, 2012

The following update has been posted with permission from Ron Bruch and the Wisconsin DNR. This website is not affiliated with the DNR, Sturgeon for Tomorrow, or any other organization.

Excerpt on sturgeon spawning from Ron Bruch’s update on March 29, 2012:

“Sturgeon were actively spawning in small numbers at only a couple of sites today as the cold weather finally finished putting the brakes on spawning activity for the time being. We took advantage of the break in the action to collect the 15 male sturgeon with our electrofishing boats that are taken each year to the Menominee Tribe for their annual Sturgeon Ceremony to be held this year Saturday April 21. We have been providing sturgeon to the Menominee Tribe each spring for their annual sturgeon celebration since 1993. We captured the male sturgeon just below the Shawano Paper Mill dam. All of these males were actually ripe and ready to spawn and we also saw many very large egg-laden females, some in the 180 pound class, below the dam as well. Although water temps have dropped significantly, and the fish are not yet on the rocks below the dam, the fact that these fish were so concentrated in the pool and downstream shallows below the dam, and were very close to being in spawning condition strongly indicates that spawning could start following the next steady increase in water temps – possibly by Sunday April 1.

Other Winnebago Sturgeon News………

Our nationally award winning book People of the Sturgeon, Wisconsin’s Love Affair with an Ancient Fish is now out as an audio book. You won’t want to miss this. The audio book vividly brings the pages of the hard cover version to life with the sounds of the Winnebago sturgeon culture including the voices of many of the original people from the book telling their own stories. This is a must for all Winnebago sturgeon enthusiasts.

You can read more about the audio book here.

You can also purchase the audio book here.

Excerpt on sturgeon spawning from Ron Bruch’s update on March 27, 2012:

“Slow, but nonetheless a very successful day today…………..we did not tag a lot of fish, but we were able to capture and tag some fish at a very nice spawning site on private property called Furman’s north of Leeman where we have only ever tagged fish perhaps once or twice before.  We also tagged a few fish at the Pines where we have worked the past two days as the spawning activity (at least for now) is winding down at this site.  Spawning activity did significantly increase at a site upstream of Highway 156, also on private property, called Keller’s or Pearl Flats.  We did not tag fish at this site though as we left the fish alone so Chris Bocast from the University of Wisconsin Madison could work with these fish to record the sounds the males make during their spawning bouts.  Keller’s is a perfect site for this type of work as the bank is quite low and Chris was able to get right on top of the numerous spawning groups working the site today to record sound data.
Chris and I are working together on a special project to record and analyze the sounds males make while they are releasing sperm during spawning bouts with females.  I published information previously about these sounds in a scientific paper on lake sturgeon spawning behavior.  The sounds are very similar to a grouse drumming.  From preliminary sound recordings Chris made last spring we found that the sound is very low frequency almost too low for humans to hear.  We may feel the sound more than hear it when we are near a lake sturgeon spawning group doing their thing.  The management application from this work will be to help biologists possibly be able to document lake sturgeon spawning is occurring without even seeing the fish.  One of the outcomes from our work beyond describing the sound is to describe the equipment needed to hear or record the sound.  The males only make this sound when they are spawning with ovulating females – so if a biologist can document the sound, they know they have spawning lake sturgeon.  This is especially important for programs attempting to restore naturally reproducing sturgeon populations that take decades to build up enough adults from stocking before they can be seen during the spawning season.
Photo of the day……..Kendall and I with a very large male we captured and tagged at Furman’s today. (DNR Photo)

Ronald M. Bruch, PhD
Upper Fox-Wolf Fisheries Work Unit Supervisor, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources”

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