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Sturgeon eggs collected in April 2010 from the Wisconsin River at Alliant Energy’s Kilbourn Dam in Wisconsin Dells have done something that hasn’t been done in over 150 years: brought lake sturgeon back to the Baraboo River. Tiny sturgeon smaller than a child’s little finger completed a circle when they were returned to the Baraboo River by the thousands, after being excluded when European settlers dammed the river in the 1830s to run sawmills and grind grain.
In early July 2010, the WDNR brought 6,100 lake sturgeon fingerlings, or baby sturgeon, to the banks of the Baraboo River and released them into its waters. The fingerlings started their lives in the Wisconsin River as eggs, were gathered from there with the assistance of Alliant Energy employees, and then were transported to a fish hatchery west of Richland Center, Wisconsin, for a two-month stay. They later became the first lake sturgeon released in the wild from the WDNR’s newly-revamped Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery.
Lake sturgeon are ancient fish that usually are three to five feet in length, reach up to 80 pounds and spawn only every four to six years. Alliant Energy’s involvement in the state’s lake sturgeon restoration effort began in 1997 when the WDNR started collecting thousands of sturgeons’ eggs below the Kilbourn Dam.
Every year, when the river’s water temperature reaches the ideal spawning temperature of about 55 degrees — typically sometime between mid-April and early May — Kilbourn Dam employees help position large 900-gallon water tanks on the dam platform and assist the WDNR’s multi-day, egg-gathering effort.
Typically about 250,000 eggs are collected each spring to help increase the survival rate of the lake sturgeon. The restoration effort continued its annual pattern in May 2011 with Alliant Energy’s cooperation and support.
Watch a WDNR video on the egg collection process.