The call is out in Michigan for guard volunteers.
To guard what, you ask? Sturgeon.
Sturgeon are found in Black Lake in Cheboygan County. The fish is a threatened species in the state. Every spring, mature lake sturgeon leave the lake to spawn in the Black River.
During that short time, the sturgeon are vulnerable to poachers.
That’s why every spring, the Black Lake Chapter of Sturgeon for Tomorrow in Cheboygan County puts out the call for volunteers.
“For over 17 years, the annual Sturgeon Guarding Program has proven that people serving as sturgeon guards watching over the river have virtually eliminated poaching, while helping to ensure the protection and reproductive success of the species,” says Ann Feldhauser, a DNR retiree and the guarding program’s volunteer coordinator.
“It’s a unique and rewarding experience to witness these majestic fish, which can live up to 100 years and weigh over 200 pounds, swimming up the Black River and to be a key player in safeguarding one of Michigan’s most valuable natural resources.”
Hundreds of volunteers stand guard along the Black River from mid-April through early June. Guards are assigned shifts and watch the river, reporting any suspicious activity.
They use cell phones provided by Sturgeon for Tomorrow and contact DNR conservation officers. Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement and Fisheries Divisions is a partner with the Black Lake Chapter in the effort.
Besides helping guard the sturgeon, volunteers can record the number of fish and activity viewed. The guard program is part of an overall rehabilitation program for the species in the Cheboygan River watershed. Other activities including stocking young fish and tagging adult sturgeon.