Brad Eggold, Great Lakes District fishery supervisor, scans one of Concordia's lake sturgeon to test that its tag is working properly.

It’s time for these youngins to spread their fins and leave the nest—or aquarium, as it were.


The Concordia Center for Environmental Stewardship will bid farewell to eight of its lake sturgeon on Saturday, Sept. 28. The unique fish, whose species is endangered in some parts of the world, will be released into Lake Michigan as part of the hugely popular Sturgeon Fest.

Concordia is one of only three sites in the state to have been granted permission to host lake sturgeon in captivity. Because of the sturgeons’ threatened status, the DNR closely monitors the distribution of permits for such requests. Lake sturgeon are listed as either threatened or endangered by 19 of the 20 states in which they are found in the U.S., but Wisconsin boasts the largest population of lake sturgeon in the world, thanks largely to the DNR’s and Riveredge’s conservation efforts.

Related: Lake sturgeon find a home at Concordia

The sturgeons’ threatened status is what prompted Riveredge Nature Center and the Wisconsin DNR to join forces 13 years ago to begin hosting Sturgeon Fest, a free event that is attended annually by thousands of people. As part of the event, participants are invited to sponsor a sturgeon that has been hatched at Riveredge’s Saukville center. Sponsors then get to release their fish into Lake Michigan during the festival.

This afternoon, the Wisconsin DNR paid the CCES a visit to implant trackers within the Concordia-hosted sturgeon. The trackers will allow DNR staff to monitor the health and habits of the sturgeon in the wild.

Brad Eggold and Aaron Schiller of the WI DNR’s Great Lake District tag one of Concordia’s lake sturgeon in preparation for its release into Lake Michigan on Saturday.

Concordia’s sturgeon measure in at between 10-14 inches, significantly larger than the other 1,000-plus lake sturgeon that will be released on as part of the festival on Saturday. When Concordia received its lake sturgeon two years ago, they measured about 5 inches in length. In the wild, lake sturgeon can easily grow larger than 8 feet. They are the oldest and largest species of fish in the Great Lakes.

Concordia’s newly tagged fish will remain in their CCES aquarium until Saturday, when DNR staff will return to transport them to Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee for release.

Concordia has reapplied and received permission to host a new batch of lake sturgeon fingerlings. It is anticipated that the new sturgeon will be introduced to their CCES aquarium on Saturday as well.

In two years, the new crew will also be able to join the prior tenants in the great wide open of Lake Michigan.

“It’s really exciting to be part of the sturgeon’s comeback story,” said Mark Schmitz, director of the CCES. “Part of the goal of the CCES is to educate students and the community. The story of the sturgeon and their presence at our center helps us foster an awareness of the need for good stewardship of God’s creation.”

— Kali Thiel is director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at kali.thiel@cuw.edu or 262-243-2149.

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