Although the lake sturgeon has been around for 135 million years, over-harvesting of their caviar, over-fishing and pollution have caused the prehistoric species to become threatened or endangered over the past century. A critical component of the Great Lakes ecosystem, the bottom feeders help to keep invasive species in check.
In recent years, the sturgeon’s decline has been met with efforts by the Wisconsin DNR and Riveredge Nature Center to boost its population in Lake Michigan and reintroduce the species to the Milwaukee River, once a spawning ground for the fish.
Sturgeon eggs from the Wolf River are reared in a streamside facility utilizing Milwaukee River water, and then released into Lake Michigan. With this method, the sturgeons imprint on Milwaukee River water, leading them to return to the Milwaukee River to spawn once they mature. The goal of this 25-year program, called the Lake Sturgeon Reintroduction Project, is to reestablish a breeding population of sturgeon in Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee River.
Since 2006, Sturgeon Fest has been held each year to celebrate the partnership between Riveredge and the Wisconsin DNR to return lake sturgeon to the Milwaukee River.
On Saturday, September 30, more than 1,000 sturgeons will be released into Lake Michigan. Those who choose to “sponsor” a sturgeon for $10 will get the opportunity to hand-release a baby sturgeon into the lake. Proceeds will contribute to the efforts of the Lake Sturgeon Reintroduction Program.
Sturgeon Fest will feature prairie tours, a scavenger hunt and sturgeon-themed activities and crafts for kids. Meanwhile, local food trucks – including Gouda Girls, Hard Wood Cafe, Sweet Delight Kettle Corn and Sushi Go – will be serving up delicious menu options.
Held at Lakeshore State Park (500 N. Harbor Dr.), the event will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.