Sturgeon Learning: Ontonagon-area school kids to participate in stocking program

Skip Schulz/For the Gazette John Pagel of the Ottawa National Forest Fisheries spoke at a recent Upper Peninsula Sport Fisherman’s Association Meeting about a high school program to raise and release Lake Sturgeon in the Ontonagon River or Lake Superior.

At the recent Upper Peninsula Sport Fisherman’s Association meeting, John Pagel of the Ottawa National Forest (ONF) went over the different projects and programs the forest is doing dealing with fishing.

One of the programs deals with the ONF bringing young Lake Sturgeon into the classroom of area schools. “This is for teachers to use them in their curriculum, and for the kids to get the experience of raising them in the classroom,” explained Pagel.

While native to this area, sturgeon are “rare worldwide,” Pagel said. “The Ontonagon and Sturgeon Rivers are one of the few places in the Great Lakes where they naturally spawn.”

The program is a cooperative effort between the ONF, Michigan DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Upper Peninsula Power Company and the Fon du Lac tribe of Minnesota.

The students will raise the young sturgeon in aquariums at the schools. The students will then release the sturgeon.

“We’ll probably have a big field trip for the kids from the four or five schools at the end of the school year to release them into the Ontonagon River or directly into Lake Superior.

Currently the schools participating includes Ewen-Trout Creek, Ironwood, Wakefield, and Bessemer. It was at the Upper Peninsula Sport Fisherman’s Association that members and Pagel talked about including Ontonagon School in the program.

The program has no cost to the participating schools, according to Pagel.

“We know that most school districts are strapped. We are paying for all the equipment, food and everything,” he said. “We’re making life as easy as possible on those teachers that work so hard. We hope this is a big success.”

This is the first year of the program, supported by the UP Sport Fisherman’s Association.

“We’ve done some cooperative projects together,” he said. “We have had a great relationship with them for over 15 years. They’ve helped me with put stream habitat in and do lake surveys as well.”

The organization is currently running a membership program. It is also an active partner in the upcoming Aspirus Ontonagon Hospital Lake Trout Classic, a fishing tournament that draws men and women fisherman from throughout the Midwest. This year’s tournament, presented by Greig’s Taxidermy, will run May 17-19.

All proceeds go to benefit the Ontonagon County Cancer Association. Registration forms and entry fees are due by May 15.

For more information on the Lake Trout Classic and the Upper Peninsula Sport Fisherman’s Association, contact Larry Greig at 884-2770 or e-mail;