The Michigan Legislature has passed a resolution naming Clay Township the Sturgeon Angling Capital of Michigan, a recognition of the rich sturgeon fishing opportunities presented along its shores on the St. Clair River.
Jim Felgenauer, an avid outdoorsman and president of the non-profit group St. Clair-Detroit River Sturgeon for Tomorrow, helped in the efforts to pass the resolution. While those unfamiliar with fishing may not realize it, Felgenauer says that area of the St. Clair River is well-known by avid fishers nationwide as a hotbed of sturgeon activity, calling it a world-class fishing spot.
The benefits of the Sturgeon Angling Capital of Michigan designation are two-fold. Clay Township stands to benefit from increased tourism dollars as a result of the extra attention. And while it may seem counter-intuitive, getting more people fishing for sturgeon might help the fish population, which is deemed a threatened species by the State of Michigan.
"It's hard for people to appreciate something that's underwater, that you can't see," says Felgenauer. "Fishing lets us interact with fish and grow to appreciate them."
As a threatened species, a catch-and-release program is in effect.
The sturgeon is not just any fish. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, sturgeon can grow over 8 feet long and weigh up to 800 pounds. They're also Michigan's longest-living fish, capable of living up to 100 years. Felgenauer sees preserving the sturgeon as a legacy issue; the same fish he catches today might be caught by a great-grandchild decades later.
By Clay Township becoming the Sturgeon Angling Capital of Michigan, Felgenauer hopes that residents there will take more ownership of the sturgeon and protect the fish from threat and exploitation, all the while benefiting from more tourism dollars.
"We think they're more likely to do that as stakeholders."
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