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'I thought it was like a dinosaur fish': How one dam is protecting giant sturgeon

Menominee Dam protects sturgeon, wows visitors
Posted at 11:13 AM, Sep 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-13 12:13:21-04
  • The Sturgeon Passage Project aims to allow prehistoric sturgeon to pass through a dam on the Menominee River to near their natural spawning area
  • Eagle Creek Renewable Energy hosted more than 100 people Tuesday to tour the dam and learn about the project
  • Nearly $6 million of funding for the project came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
  • Betsy Jones celebrated her 10th birthday by coming to the Menominee Dam to see the sturgeon — her favorite fish
  • Video shows Betsy and others touching the sturgeon and marveling at the Dam's sturgeon elevator

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

Whether you're an expert angler or someone who only looks at fish in a fish tank, you're about to be blown away by the size of the fish in this tank. I'm Karl Winter in Menominee, and we got to take an up close and personal look at these sturgeon.

"I really like sturgeon," Betsy Jones said.

Betsy Jones just turned 10 years old, and her birthday present was a three-hour drive from Racine to see her favorite fish.

"Was this better than being at school?" reporter Karl Winter asked her.

"Yes it was."

Betsy came to see sturgeon move through the Menominee Dam's Sturgeon Passage. Its goal to help the fish get upriver, closer to their natural spawning location.

"I like the fact that they're wild sturgeon and not sturgeon in captivity," Jones said.

Betsy and I, and so many others, got to see and touch the curious — and massive — fish.

"These things are huge — 50 to 60 inches, and those are just the average ones!" Winter said.

"I thought it was like a dinosaur fish or something," Don Odom said.

Eagle Creek Renewable Energy regional manager Don Odom says the Sturgeon Passage Project aims to help protect the 200-million-year-old species. They can't get near their natural spawning area without this help.

"There's been a big decrease in the population of the sturgeon, but they are starting to bring it back up," Odom said.

One other feature at the Menominee Dam…

"I learned that they have this really cool elevator that like takes them up," Jones said.

The unexpected elevator ride takes the sturgeon to the sorting tanks.

For everyone who toured the dam, including Betsy, it was well worth the trip.

"Where does this ranked on birthday presents?" Winter asked her.

"I would say 10 out of 10," Jones said.

Nearly $6 million has gone to the expansion of the sturgeon fish population, and Eagle Creek is excited to see these fish continue to flourish and grow in the years to come.