TOPEKA, Ill. — Researchers and biologists recently tagged 4,600 young lake sturgeon at the Jake Wolf Memorial Fish Hatchery in Mason County as part of Illinois’ Lake Sturgeon Recovery Project. Conservationists are trying to bring the ancient native species back to Midwestern lakes and rivers. This tagging initiative is a crucial step towards ensuring the long-term survival of this remarkable species.

“These PIT tags will provide valuable insights into age, growth rates, and movement,” explained a project biologist.

Passive Integrated Transponders (PIT Tags) are tracking tags that do not require power. They have a microchip that is activated when it passes close to a special antenna. The tagged sturgeon will be released into the Illinois River and its tributaries, contributing to the recovery of this endangered species in Illinois and the broader Upper Mississippi River Basin.

Lake sturgeon, a native species unique to Illinois, can live over 100 years, becoming sexually mature at around 20 years old, and growing to over 6 feet. Their diet includes snails, crayfish, mussels, and insects. The species was on the brink of extinction. Now the hatcheries plan on releasing them back into Illinois waters later this year.

It is not yet clear which Illinois lakes will be stocked with sturgeon. The fish is native to the northern and western counties, remains endangered, and must be released if caught.