Lake Sturgeon Release into Cass River August 31 at 1:30 pm

Local, state, and federal partners invite the public to participate in an event to reintroduce juvenile lake sturgeon into the Saginaw Bay Watershed.
The event will take place on August 31 at 1:30 p.m. in Frankenmuth, MI, and will feature the release of 125 hatchery-raised sturgeon into the Cass River. Presentations will be made by U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow’s office, representatives from state and federal wildlife agencies, and local partners. The release will take place by the Gunzenhausen Street Walkway, with event parking adjacent to the walkway.

The event is part of the Saginaw Bay Watershed Lake Sturgeon Reintroduction Program, an effort led by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and partners to reestablish lake sturgeon in the Cass, Shiawassee, Tittabawassee, and Flint rivers. The sturgeon were raised in MDNR’s Black River Streamside Rearing Facility, and they are about 4-6 inches in length. 

“It is very exciting to join the community for the release of 125 sturgeon into the newly reconnected Saginaw Bay,” says Senator Stabenow. “This is a great example of how Great Lakes funding helped restore the Cass River so lake sturgeon and other Great Lakes fish species can thrive again and more Michigan families and visitors can enjoy fishing.”

Lake sturgeon are a unique Great Lakes species. They can grow up to 7 feet long and can weigh up to 300 pounds. The slow-maturing fish do not begin reproducing until they are 15-20 years old. Once abundant in many Michigan lakes and rivers, lake sturgeon were nearly eradicated due to
overfishing and habitat loss, particularly the destruction of rocky reefs in rivers that sturgeon and other native fish species use for spawning. On the Cass River, a dam blocked access to critical spawning habitat for migrating fish – including lake sturgeon – for more than 150 years. Lake sturgeon are now considered threatened or endangered in 7 of the 8 Great Lakes states. Reproducing sturgeon haven’t been reported in the Cass River in at least a century.

In recent years, many partnerships and projects have launched around Michigan to restore sturgeon habitat, reintroduce sturgeon into their native ranges, and raise awareness and appreciation for this iconic species. A recent project removed the Frankenmuth dam and installed a rock ramp, reopening access to the long-blocked upstream spawning habitat.

“The City of Frankenmuth is so pleased that the project is providing both environmental and economic benefit,” says Sheila Stamiris, local project manager for the Fish Passage project at the Frankenmuth Dam. “Post-project studies have shown that fish are passing over the former dam impediment and visitors are exploring Frankenmuth through fishing and kayaking, supporting both business investment and resulting jobs. The City looks forward to the day when these young sturgeon return to the Cass River, as their presence indicates good quality water, which benefits us all."

The Cass River sturgeon release event is supported by a variety of partners including the City of Frankenmuth, Frankenmuth Kayak Adventures, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan State University Extension, Office of the Great Lakes, Partnership for the Saginaw Bay Watershed, Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network, Sturgeon for Tomorrow, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Learn more about lake sturgeon on the Michigan Sea Grant website.