On March 28, the ice still lies thick over Cheboygan’s Black Lake, but it’ll be breaking up in a few weeks, and when it does the giant resident sturgeon (some measure six feet long or more) will swim up the Upper Black River to spawn. There to protect them will be the Sturgeon Guardians—volunteers who patrol the riverbanks day and night throughout the spawning season to prevent poaching; the sturgeon are easy prey in the small river. We checked in with Brenda Archambo, president of Sturgeon for Tomorrow, which organizes the patrol, to see what she’s thinking about these days sturgeon-wise.

What are you excited about as you look ahead to the patrol season?We’re expecting a lot of new female sturgeon this year, fish we haven’t seen before, to come up and spawn. Also, we are launching a stream bank stabilization program, which conserves sturgeon spawning habitat by preventing sand from covering the spawning beds. And we’ve reached out to the Little Traverse Bay Band to ask their help with the program, so their fishery people will be on the river with us helping to net and tag fish. And finally we are moving ahead with making our sturgeon hatchery at the Kleber Dam permanent. So a lot of stuff to be excited about.

Winter is lingering this year, when do you expect the fish to begin their run?We are starting the guarding program the last Sunday in April and running it through the last Saturday in May.

To sign up for a patrol shift and a chance to see this remarkable fish that has existed for an estimated 135 million years, go to sturgeonfortomorrow.org and click on “guarding program.” The site also has lots of amazing sturgeon facts.