Black Lake sturgeon season ends with six fish landed

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The 2013 Black Lake Shivaree. Photo: Mark Chimner

The 2013 Black Lake Shivaree. Photo: Mark Chimner

Michigan’s Black Lake winter sturgeon season ended Monday when the last of a 6-fish quota allowed this year was speared.

The season started at 8 a.m. Saturday and would have ended no later than Wednesday if the quota was not filled. Three fish were landed on Saturday, one Sunday and two on Monday.

Husband and wife Gil and Brenda Archambo have a long history of fishing for and preserving lake sturgeon. Both work for Sturgeon for Tomorrow, a non-profit organization devoted to the conservation of a fish that can live more than  70 years and grow to be more than  six feet long.

This year, Claudia Wright speared the largest sturgeon at 66 inches and 67 pounds,  according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Brenda Archambo, president of Sturgeon for Tomorrow, still remembers the first time she saw a lake sturgeon.

“I was about six when I first saw my first sturgeon,” she said. “(My grandfather and I) were out there in a shanty one day and there was a commotion going on and we went over and there was this big fish on the ice and it was very iconic.

“I never forgot looking into the eye of the sturgeon. It reminded me of pictures I had seen of dinosaurs.”

In Michigan, lake sturgeon can also be found in Burt and Mullet lakes in Cheboygan, but fishing is not allowed in those lakes because the species is scarce, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, which determines how many fish can be  caught each year.

A sturgeon speared during 2012 season. Photo: Michigan Department of Natural Resources

A sturgeon speared during 2012 season. Photo: Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The department  set a Black Lake harvest rate of 1.2 percent of the sturgeon population this year.

Gil Archambo, a director at Sturgeon for Tomorrow, enjoys the camaraderie the people bring each year to the shivaree, a celebration that coincides with the season.

“It’s like your hunting buddies that would go to hunting camp with you only on a lot larger scale,” he said.

It was a unique experience when at the age of 13 he caught his first sturgeon, he said.

Though the Archambos have great memories of lake sturgeon over the years, they have negative ones as well because the fish is threatened.

In the 1950s and 1960s, poaching was common in Black Lake and around the state, Gil Archambo said.  “There were poachers that took actual truckloads of them.”

In the late 1990s, the state was going to shut the fishery down because of the poaching, said Tim Cwalinksi, a biologist with the conservation agency.  But the Black Lake community wanted improved management.

“The people who were telling us that we need to do something also said don’t close the fishery.”

As a result, what used to be a month-long fishing season in the winter is now a four-day maximum season.

The shivaree is not all about fishing. Last weekend’s event was scheduled for two days regardless if the season ended in one day or four.

Activities included an open bar,  a food court,  Native American drum ceremony performed by Ottawa Indians and games for children at the former Black Lake Hotel, according to the Sturgeon for Tomorrow website.

10 thoughts on “Black Lake sturgeon season ends with six fish landed

  1. Time honored tradition??? I don’t think our ancestors were much into releasing what they caught, that was how they fed their families. Times have changed, but the efforts of Sturgeon for Tomorrow ensures a healthy and recovering population going forward. Black Lake is a great example of true conservation efforts. They are doing a great job of restoring a diminished sturgeon population and perserving the time honored tradition of spearing (one the most primitive techniques of catching fish.)

  2. Snippet from:
    DNR announces 2013 Black Lake sturgeon season harvest results
    Contact: Tim Cwalinski or Dave Borgeson, 989-732-3541 or Ed Golder, 517-335-3014

    The harvested fish ranged in length and weight:
    -fish one was male, 11 pounds and 39 inches;
    -fish two was female, 67 pounds and 66 inches;
    -fish three was male, 54 pounds and 63.5 inches;
    -fish four was male, 13 pounds and 42 inches;
    -fish five was female, 42 pounds and 59.5 inches; and
    -fish six was female, 18 pounds and 45 inches.

    Several of the fish had been captured several times before by Michigan State University and DNR sturgeon researchers during either spring spawning runs or lake netting surveys.

    Recent changes in registration logistics were developed to allow greater participation by anglers while protecting the population of lake sturgeon in Black Lake from overharvest.

    For an overview and history of lake sturgeon in Michigan, visit;

  3. I think Harold is right, he’s not so much against keeping/killing fish, he’s against killing fish when there’s only a few, I agree. Takes 20 years before they can spawn, then not every year. You can still have the Shivaree. More people would have a chance to win something. You just don’t have to kill any. Dead minnow on bottom should do it. The season has lasted only hours or minutes before. Build them back up before you harvest them. Just because you can kill them doesn’t mean you should. Fighting a sturgeon thru the ice on a pole, come on, don’t get more fun than that.

  4. A great weekend at the Black Lake Shivaree and congratulations to the six successful fishermen! And thanks to Brenda and Gil Archambo and all of the volunteers who put in a lot of time and effort to bring back the Shivaree! Looking forward to next year and many thereafter!

  5. Thank you Gil and Brenda Archambo for all your work with Sturgeon for Tomorrow. Your sturgeon culture facility has raised thousands of sturgeon for Black Lake. Your facility is also the model for fishery training and inspiration which has lead others to develop several tribal and state mobile sturgeon hatcheries around the state.

  6. Harold has no idea what life on earth is about. Catch and release is not a time-honored tradition. Maybe he doesn’t know what that means, but it is actually a very recent thought. I have no problem with catch and release and I practice it 90% of the time, but to be against keeping a fish, you are very uneducated and have no right to speak.

  7. Harold you obviously have not attended the Black Lake Shivaree or understand anything about the sturgeon. What about the 1200 fish that were planted in the lake this last year. Taking those 6 fish is well within the allowed limit to still sustain the fishery. Besides those 6 fish the Native Americans also get to take 6 so don’t just blame the fisherman.

  8. Harold,

    You would serve yourself well to educate yourself about the “facts and reality” relative to lake sturgeon management in the Cheboygan River Watershed. You are way off base.

  9. Seems like allowing such a small harvest (1.2 percent of the estimated population) shouldn’t hurt, but I don’t have any knowledge of Michigan’s sturgeon. I do know that they are thriving in Lake Michigan, Green Bay and the Lake Winnebago system in Wisconsin waters. The fish are spawning naturally and the DNR is also taking spawn and stocking some of the rivers as well. Thousands are speared in Winnebago most winters and some have topped 200 pounds. They are closely managed. Great info available online at and

  10. Once again, the Michigan DNR is shamefully encouraging the killing of a Threatened species. Another six mature adults were killed this year at Black Lake (and who knows how many others elsewhere, under the DNR’s limited season for Lake Sturgeon in other locations), assuring that those fish will never be able to reproduce and hasten the recovery of this nearly-extinct species.

    I have been a avid fisherman for most of my life, yet I have only killed and eaten a few of the fish that I have caught. Does not the DNR recognize that catch-and-release is a time-honored tradition that can and should be utilized towards Lake Sturgeon? Instead of allowing a limited number of legally-Threatened Lake Sturgeon to be killed at Black Lake, why not turn it into even more of a celebration by allowing people to live-catch sturgeon? Give a $1,000 prize to each of the first 10 people who catch a Lake Sturgeon alive! Install radio tracking devices on the fish and release them. The excitement from such a program, and the information garnered from the tracking program, will do far more for Lake Sturgeon recovery than killing a few of these magnificent fish each year solely to appease a very few who wish to maintain the “tradition” of spearing Lake Sturgeon.

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