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Fishing for lake sturgeon in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan is not a threat to the ancient species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) concluded in its decision not to list the giant fish under the Endangered Species Act.

Monday's ruling after a yearlong review ends the possibility the largest freshwater fish in North America will be put off limits to recreational anglers in the Upper Midwest.

"There will be a lot of excitement in the angling community about this decision,'' said Dave Olfelt, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife Division director. "The decision is in alignment with the information we provided to the service."

The federal agency denied listing lake sturgeons as threatened or endangered anywhere in the country. It documented a great deal of successful conservation work in Minnesota and elsewhere. Fish stocking, dam removals and protection of spawning areas are helping sturgeon populations in the U.S. recover from past decades of overfishing, water pollution and habitat destruction, according to the federal review.

The move to deny the Endangered Species Act petition from the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity was cheered by the Minnesota fishing community.

Kevin and Jenn Hinrichs, owners of the Royal Dutchman sturgeon fishing resort near Baudette, were living in fear of an adverse ruling until the news broke Monday morning from the FWS's Bloomington, Minn., office. A ban on sturgeon fishing in the Rainy River, home to one of the most resurgent populations in the U.S., would undoubtedly put the resort out of business, Kevin Hinrichs said.

"I'm on top of the world," he said. "I could probably stand next to a mountain right now and chop it down with my hand."

Hinrichs said he was impressed with how state fisheries biologists from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan worked to document for the FWS how various conservation efforts, including ongoing projects, have aided lake sturgeon population recoveries over the past several decades. In Minnesota, for example, the DNR currently is working with the Lake Superior Aquarium and other partners on sturgeon rehabilitation efforts in the St. Louis River and its estuary along the western edge of Lake Superior.

Elsewhere in Minnesota, the DNR has received state and federal grant money to remove culverts and other barriers to migration that have been blocking sturgeon migration and spawning runs in the Upper Red River of the North watershed. The recovery in that system was recently documented with clear video footage of sturgeons congregating and spawning in the Ottertail River for the first time in 125 years.

"Our voices were heard," Hinrichs said.

Midwest Regional Director Will Meeks announced Monday's Endangered Species Act decision. "The fact that we're seeing more and more lake sturgeon populations spawning in their historical habitat is a clear sign that restoration efforts are progressing," Meeks said.

He credited states, tribes, local organizations and "others across the country coming together to conserve this species," estimated to be at least 150 million years old.

The agency had the option of segmenting sturgeon populations around the country with unique listings of endangered or threatened. But in the end, none of the various regional populations received a listing. According to the agency's assessment, no groupings met the definition of a distinct population segment.

The Center for Biological Diversity issued a statement saying the decision is bad for lake sturgeon and anglers because the species overall "has suffered drastic declines." Jeff Miller, senior conservation advocate at the nonprofit, said that while some sturgeon populations are well-managed, "adult fish numbers are at a fraction of their historical levels despite decades of restoration efforts." He criticized the FWS for deciding not to protect distinct regional populations of sturgeon. "Endangered Species Act protection would bring a comprehensive recovery plan and ongoing funding to restore these iconic fish across their former range," Miller said.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Rep Pete Stauber were among Minnesotans who were concerned about the possibility of a federal listing. The DNR has been closely managing lake sturgeon at least since 1984, when it became a species of special concern within the state.

Areas such as Lake of the Woods and Rainy River saw sturgeon numbers grow to about 92,000 in 2014, nearly six times the estimate from the late 1980s, Klobuchar wrote last week in a letter to FWS Director Martha Williams. The senator also stressed that sturgeon fishing in Minnesota plays an important economic role in certain communities.

"I ask for careful consideration of the impact that an endangered listing may have on Minnesotans,'' Klobuchar wrote.

Monday's announcement by the federal agency is final. Lake sturgeon could be petitioned again, the agency said, but a new petition would have to present "new and substantial information."

Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan are the only states that allow fishing for lake sturgeon, including limited harvest opportunities in Minnesota. State-licensed anglers can take and possess one lake sturgeon per calendar year with a special tag in Canada-Minnesota border waters from April 24 to May 7 or July 1 to Sept. 30. To be a keeper, the sturgeon must be within the range of 45-50 inches long or longer than 75 inches (6 feet, 3 inches). However, the vast majority of sturgeon fishing in Minnesota, including in the St. Croix River, is done by catch-and-release.

One important finding by the FWS is that existing fishing regulations are part of successful conservation efforts. "Impacts to lake sturgeon from catch-and-release fishing were found to be low," the agency said in its written assessment.