Wisconsin Lake Sturgeon Star in IMAX Film Opening in Milwaukee

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“Mysteries of the Great Lakes” run starts June 13

Wisconsin lake sturgeon star in IMAX film opening in MilwaukeeMADISON — Wisconsin’s lake sturgeon and the people dedicated to sustaining this gigantic, prehistoric fish star in a $6 million IMAX film opening June 13 at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

Wisconsin is essentially the star of the film,” says David Lickley, director and producer of “Mysteries of the Great Lakes,” a production of Science North science center in Sudbury, Ontario. “We jokingly said at one point we could have called it “Mysteries of Wisconsin.”

There’s a huge amount of Wisconsin content, which Lickley attributed to the story they were able to develop around the lake sturgeon and around Ron Bruch, a Department of Natural Resources fisheries supervisor who has become internationally known for leading the Lake Winnebago sturgeon management program.

“Ron Bruch is one of those characters you run across rarely on our film format,” Lickley says. “I worked with Jane Goodall on a film a few years back and she was the epitome of a scientific character to put in a film because she’s so articulate, compassionate, just the perfect sort of character. And when we found Ron, he was the fish equivalent of Jane Goodall.”

A lake sturgeon makes its journey up the Wolf River on a sunny, April day.Downloadable files featuring a longer interview with Lickley and Bruch are available online on a special “Mysteries of the Great Lakes” Web page that also features the movie’s trailer, photographs taken during filming, and other information about the IMAX film and Wisconsin’s lake sturgeon management efforts.

Lake sturgeon are one of the largest freshwater fish in the world, able to grow up to 300 pounds and live 150 years or more. While other sturgeon populations around the globe dwindle, Wisconsin’s century-old sturgeon management program and citizen commitment have enabled the Lake Winnebago System to sustain the world’s largest lake sturgeon population and to continue to offer a unique sturgeon spearing opportunity. The population has provided eggs, and DNR staff have provided experience and knowledge in dealing with this large fish, for other states and nations trying to restore their own lake sturgeon populations.

“Mysteries of the Great Lakes” tells this story, and lets audiences “dive” underwater with a 200-pound sturgeon making her spawning run up the Wolf River as crowds cheer her on and protect her from poachers. It takes audiences to the stream-side rearing pens the DNR is operating with help from volunteers to raise sturgeon for release in Lake Michigan tributary streams.

The film tells the story of the recovery of the bald eagle and concerns over mercury contamination of chicks that eat sea lampreys. Filming for those sequences was set on the Bad River Indian Reservation and featured Tribal biologists.

“Mysteries of the Great Lakes” takes the audience on trip through spectacular scenery, exploring along the way the unusual biological adaptations of the woodland caribou on Slate Islands, the Presque Island wildlife preserve, and the shipwrecks that litter the Great Lakes.

“They did a very good job of telling the story,” says Bruch, who participated in the film’s premiere in Sudbury Ontario in early May. “It was a very positive experience.”

He has high hopes that the film and an accompanying curriculum will raise awareness about Wisconsin’s sturgeon, the region’s spectacular natural resources, and the challenges they face.

“Wherever this film shows, people will realize what kind of sturgeon population Wisconsin has and recognize what Wisconsin has done to have the populations we have. Knowing what impact the film should have on helping people understand the issues the Great Lakes face and how we can perhaps over time really have meaningful solutions to these problems – to be a part of that is really rewarding.”

Many of the volunteers who have been so critical to the strength of Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago lake sturgeon population and efforts to restore the species to Lake Michigan are being treated to a sneak peak of the film on June 11. The DNR, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Great Lakes WATER Institute, the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute, and the Milwaukee Public Museum are sponsoring the event.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ron Bruch, DNR – (920) 424-3059 or David Lickley, Science North – (705) 523-4629 ext. 254