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Beacon Archive

July 2003
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4th of July Festivities

BITA - BIBCO Reach an Agreement

Environmentally Sensitive Areas Ordinance on the Agenda

Vanishing Sturgeon

PABI's 1st Annual Goofy Golf Tournament

Rita Gillespie Memorial Blood Drive

Tara runs like the Wind

News from Beaver Island Hospice & Helping Hands

On This Date

Rutan Experimentals Fly-In at the Township Airport

Annual Firemen’s Picnic

Barry Pischner's New CD: Sailing On

The Island Welcomes New Sheriff Jim Campbell

The Bike Path: an Unqualified Success

Museum Week 2003 Schedule; Museums hold Open House

Some interesting occurrences at Meetings

A Solstice Celebration: The Second Annual High Tea

Whiskey Point Restoration; Rectory Auction

Camp Quality does Beaver Island

Charlevoix County Commission Meetings

Celebrating Flag Day

Charlie's Model A: on the way to the Shop

One Hundred Years Ago

The “Seven Sisters” Opens

BIRHC Board has Opening

Sunset Cruises available Once Again

Bob Hannon: 1950-2003

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Vanishing Sturgeon

In 1975 Island fisherman Charlie Martin snagged a 6' fish. He was supposed to set it free, but it was such an unusual catch that instead he made two trips to Ed Wojan's bait shop (now the Emerald Isle Gallery.) The first time he bought the largest hook they had. He reappeared an hour later, saying “Look what I caught off the dock!” It was in the back of his pick-up, its chest heaving as it fruitlessly gasped for air.

People passing by stopped for a look at the primitive beast, which seemed oblivious to all the attention. Because it was so rare, Ed wound up paying $50 for it and then racing to Lake Geneserath, where he not only set it free but spent an hour coaxing it back to life. Local lore had it that one of these behemoths had been put there before, and another in Barney's. But they had not been hooked, or seen, since. None of the dozen or so people who saw this one as it was transferred to Ed's truck had ever seen one.

This was not always the case. When white men first began trading with the Native Americans, they were offered these 200,000,000-year-old evolutionary throwbacks, which our first inhabitants had long speared, frequently through holes in the ice. In the hayday of commercial fishing, when they were estimated to be eleven million strong in Lake Michigan alone, sturgeon were always turning up in the pound nets. Considered a net-tearing threat, they were hauled onto shore, stacked up like cordwood, left to dry, and then set on fire–their oil ensured a blaze. Despite their abundance, there was essentially no market–although they were used in places for the manufacture of eisenglass.

Today they are close to extinction, thanks to abuse, pollution, and the deprivation of their former spawning areas. But now the DNR plans to start a campaign designed to lead to their return. “With human intervention we could have terrific sturgeon runs in 10 to 12 years,” said University of Georgia biologist Paul Vescal recently. DNR resource manager Gary Whelan is pushing a plan to collect eggs and sperm, fertilize them in a lab, and raise the hatchlings in pens. But first he wants genetic testing, to make sure there's enough diversity left. “We don't want to make a really bad mistake,” Whelan added. “Inbreeding could have a catastrophic effect on the population.”

With any luck, our children might once again look over the side of their boat and see fish that swam here when dinosaurs patrolled the shores.

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