Lake sturgeon are an ancient fish, roughly 200 million years old and revered by Native American tribes like the Menomonie. Sturgeon are special because they have five lines of hard plates rather than scales, no backbone and tails like sharks.
Due to overfishing, dam construction, destruction of natural habitats and poor water quality, lake sturgeon disappeared from the Milwaukee River – last recorded there in the 1890s.
As an official threatened species, there are only a few thousand adult sturgeon that live in Lake Michigan. After Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) implemented restoration programs for native fish in 2003, the Riveredge Nature Center in Saukville, located at the top of the Milwaukee River, began rearing sturgeon to be released into the Milwaukee River and to stock Lake Michigan.
About 1,000 sturgeon are released each year with the eventual goal of producing a sustainable breeding population.