In the early 1800s scientists estimated that between one and two million adult lake sturgeon roamed Lake Michigan. The fish served as an important food source for many Native American tribes. In fact, when European settlers arrived in the region, sturgeons were so numerous during the spring spawning run that they were reportedly capable of capsizing fishing boats. As the shores of the great lakes were populated and fishing grew as an important source of food and income, sturgeons quickly became the scorn of fisherman.
The large bony fish would often get entangled in fishers’ nets, reducing, if not ruining, their catch of valuable lake whitefish or trout.
People began to catch the less desirable sturgeon and destroy them in large numbers burning them on the shore or even for fuel for passing steam ships.