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Essential Ojibwemowin namelake sturgeon NAME Biologists collaborate to help rehabilitate name across Gichigami New tools in Bad River assessment By Charlie Otto Rasmussen Staff writer Biologists Angelena Koosman and Michael Seider hoist a lake sturgeon into a survey boat on the Bad River. COR Portable ultrasound equipment allows fisheries biologists to determine the sex of lake sturgeon. COR Internal tags are detected with a hand reader. COR USFWS Biologist Joshua Schloesser slides an acoustic tag into the abdomen of a large female sturgeon. COR Fortified with financial support and a strong interagency com- mitment fisheries biologists are taking a closer look into the lives of the largest fish in the Ceded Territory lake sturgeon. With innovative survey methods along with tried-and-true techniques scientists on both sides of the international border hope to elevate lake sturgeon from threatened to a rehabilitated species. Weve built a strong working relationship with the US Fish Wildlife Service to manage a resource thats important to a lot of people said Ervin Soulier Bad River B a n d N a t u r a l Resources director. The north- flowing Bad River bisectsitsnamesake reservation and is home to the largest spawning popula- tionoflakesturgeon intheLakeSuperior basin. After more than two decades of standardized assessment work biologists are now utilizing acoustic tags to better understandsturgeonmovements andidentifycriticalhabitat.Over the coming years acoustic track- ing will be employed lake-wide by researchers with the Lake Superior Lake Sturgeon Work Group. Keep your hands to your self Theuseofacousticsinfisheriesmonitoringgivestheadvantageofconstantfish monitoring without the need to catch and handle fish regularly. Acoustic tags about the size of a lipstick bulletare surgically implanted into the abdomen of a sub-sample of fish. Strategically placed tracking stations fitted with high-tech receivers monitor the movements of fish in the study. Setting up the acoustic array was made possible through funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to make a splash in efforts to improve the future for the fish known as name in the Ojibwe language. Acousticsfillaneedtohelpdeterminelakesturgeonmovementanddispersal patternsatmultiplelifestagessaidJoshuaSchloesserUSFishWildlifeService USFWS fish biologist. Schloesser said acoustic tracking projects are underway in the St. Louis River near Duluth and on the east end of Gichigami in Goulais Batchawana and Whitefish Bays. The acoustic receiver set up on the lower Bad River is the first for the South Shore but plans are in place to expand acoustic receiver arrays along the South Shore including Chequamegon Bay. Long term collaboration Meanwhilebiologistscontinuetraditionalhands-onlakesturgeonassessments on both the Bad River and its tributary the White River. The work dates back to 1994 when the Bad River Band and USFWS first launched the survey program. Using the same locations on the rivers every year biologists string up 100-200 foot gillnets that feature a ten-inch mesh. Crews consisting of USFWS and Bad River tribal biologists check the nets daily during spring spawning runs that typically take place from mid-April in mid-May. The Bad River system gives us a good idea at what a self-sustaining lake sturgeon population looks like Schloesser said. During a May 2 net check Bad River Department of Natural Resources biologist Angelena Koosmann joined Schloesser and USFWS Biologist Michael Seider on a warm sunny morning. With water temperatures edging towards 50-degreeswhich kicks spawning into gearand a weekend drop in water levels the crew anticipated a good number of namewag in the nets. Two nets stretched from bank-to-bank on the Bad River produced eight spawners including one nice-sized female. As Schloessersteadiedtheboat Seider and Koosman lifted the gillnets and after a bit of untangling hoist each fish into an oval aluminum tank. After rounding up all thenettedsturgeontheteam motorsupstreamtoashallow spot in the river where they gather biological data from each fish. The work-up includes an ultrasound that reveals whether the sturgeon is male or female. Many of these fish have been cap- tured before evidenced by spaghetti-like floy tags attached at the base of the dorsal fin along with a small internal PIT tag which was detected with a hand reader. NoneofthesefishcarriedoneofthenewacoustictagsandSchloesserselected the large female as a good candidate for a short surgical procedure to implant the transmitter. For the 2016 assessment season biologists plan to tag five males and five females. Schloesser completed the surgery on the female namein only a few minutes sliding the acoustic tag through a small cut in the abdomen and closing the inci- sion with a few stitches. After a net check and sturgeon work-up on the White River the crew wrapped up for the day around mid-afternoon. Under the care of a dedicated team of biologists namewag of the Bad River watershed appear to be in good hands even for the acoustic fish who may never get handled again. PAGE 7 MAZINAIGANSUMMER 2016