Annual Quest for ‘Once-In-A-Lifetime’ Fish Lasts 35 Minutes

By JULIE RIDDLE, The Alpena Information

ONAWAY, Mich. (AP) — Hope springs everlasting on Black Lake in February.

In single-digit temperatures on a Saturday, Feb. 5, morning, about 600 fishermen and -women on Black Lake in Presque Isle and Cheboygan counties peered into watery rectangles, hoping to be among the many fortunate few to take house one of many state’s annual allotment of lake sturgeon.

Simply 35 minutes after the season opened, a fisherman pulled the final of the season’s harvest out of the water, The Alpena Information stories.

“It is best to have been within the shanty,” mentioned Jerry Perrin, of Au Gres, of the celebration after he speared the season’s third sturgeon at 8:14 a.m. “Issues bought fairly loopy.”

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Simply after dawn, colourful fishing shanties unfold throughout Black Lake as a textual content message to members introduced the beginning of the shortest fishing season of the yr.

The protected lake sturgeon – which might develop to 7 ft lengthy, weigh 200 kilos, and dwell for 100 years, in keeping with the Michigan Division of Pure Sources – confronted dramatic inhabitants decline up to now 150 years.

Now, the DNR says any lake sturgeon caught within the state have to be launched instantly. An exception comes throughout a quick frenzy of fishing exercise for just a few hours — and even minutes — every year.

The DNR permits the harvest of six sturgeon from Black Lake, the place an estimated inhabitants of 1,100 to 1,200 adults makes the lake one of many final strongholds of the fish in Michigan, in keeping with DNR Senior Fisheries Biologist Tim Cwalinski.

On Feb. 5, solely DNR officers, watchfully standing close to snowmobiles and listening for shouts, appeared outdoors because the early-morning solar fell throughout a crowded however silent lake.

Contained in the shanties and sheds, first-time sturgeon hopefuls and long-timers with many years of expertise perched on milk crates or stood subsequent to hand-sawn 2-foot by 3-foot holes, multi-pronged spears raised as they peered into lime-green water, hoping a large fish would swim by.

Ten minutes after the season started, cell telephones throughout the ice buzzed and dinged.

“Fish on the ice,” a DNR officer exclaimed, checking his watch with raised eyebrows.

One minute later, a second textual content alerted anglers that the season was already one-third of the best way to its shut.

Simply 35 minutes after it started, the season closed with a closing textual content, cheers from a distant shanty carrying throughout the frozen lake.

Inside minutes, dozens of anglers emerged from their shanties, smiling, laughing, and shaking their heads.

For all however six of them, this had not been their yr.

“To be sincere, we didn’t count on to catch something,” mentioned upbeat angler Jeff Jeurink, of Allendale, as he started dismantling his shanty.

William Walraven, of Harrison, hadn’t even had time to complete his beer earlier than the season was over, he mentioned, cheerfully shrugging off lack of fishing success throughout his first attempt for a sturgeon.

William Bailey, of Traverse Metropolis, didn’t get to attempt for a fish as a result of his fishing accomplice didn’t present up with a noticed. As a tribal member, he’ll have one other probability, although, Bailey mentioned.

“That’s it,” he mentioned, of the fishing occasion even shorter than final yr’s two-hour season. “It was over as quickly because it began.”

Exterior one other shanty, a household chatted as they unscrewed stakes from the ice.

“We didn’t catch any fish at the moment,” sing-songed Parker Roeske, 4, delighted with the household’s outing regardless of having no trophy to take house.

The household has seen just one sturgeon of their 12 years of taking part within the fishing season, her mom, Denise Roeske, of Frankenmuth, mentioned.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime fish,” she mentioned. “So that you spend your entire life attempting for that one time.”

Watery thunks and cracks sounded from the ice as pickup vehicles and four-wheelers drove throughout the lake, some pulling tiny buildings towards the shore. Earlier than lengthy, the native eating places could be filled with breakfasting anglers sharing tall tales, Denise Roeske mentioned.

A number of miles away, DNR officers at a discipline workplace fussed over the six fortunate anglers who introduced of their sturgeon to be weighed, measured, and checked for DNR identification tags.

A 5-foot lengthy, 67-pound male, the second catch of the day, had been captured and recorded by the DNR each two years since 2002, Cwalinski mentioned.

Profitable fisherman Perrin – now often known as “Sturgeon Jerry” by his buddies — purchased his fishing spear in a Black Lake car parking zone final yr from an indignant angler uninterested in not catching something.

This yr, in his first try, Perrin introduced house probably the most coveted outdoorsman prizes within the state.

He plans to mount the fish, in contrast to Scott Williams, of Millersburg, who thought he’d flip his 46-inch catch into dinner.

Williams has speared a number of sturgeon, however this yr’s catch was his first from Black Lake in 22 years.

Because the final of the registering anglers headed house, Nathan Traver, of Houghton Lake, and James Schwartz, of Roscommon, pulled into the DNR car parking zone.

The primary to reach on the lake at 4:55 a.m., the unfortunate anglers hoped they’d a minimum of get to glimpse one of many mysterious giants that swim the depths of Black Lake.

They’d executed the mathematics, they mentioned, and knew they’d had a 1% probability of going house with a sturgeon.

Would they fight once more subsequent yr?

“Oh, positively,” Schwartz mentioned. “A hundred percent.”

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