Lake Sturgeon

Common Name: Lake Sturgeon

Scientific Name: Acipenser fulvescens

Appearance: Brownish-gray on its sides, with four beard-like barbels hanging from its mouth, sturgeon have a fairly unmistakable appearance.

Distribution: Found only in larger lakes and rivers with sand, gravel, or rock bottoms, Lake Sturgeon are fairly abundant in the Great Lakes, Mississippi River, and St. Lawrence, as well as some of the larger waterways of Western Canada and the American Midwest and South. They can also be found in the warmer parts of Russia and the Ukraine, where they are famous for their caviar.

Spawning: Sturgeon move into streams to spawn just after ice-out, and will begin spawning sometime between late spring and early summer. They prefer very fast-moving currents, even rapids and the areas around small waterfalls, in depths ranging from 2’ to 15’. If these conditions are not available, sturgeon will spawn in open water, in the choppy areas around rock islands.

Unlike trout and salmon, sturgeon do not build nests, but rather spawn randomly with two or three males following a female, fertilizing her eggs as she spreads them over rocks and vegetation. Sturgeon females spawn only once every 4 to 6 years, and will lay several hundred thousand eggs when the time comes.

Unfertilized sturgeon eggs are made into caviar by curing them in salt. While it’s entirely possible to safely extract a female sturgeon’s eggs and return her to the water, more often than not harvesters opt for the quicker, easier process of killing the female sturgeon and removing her ovaries. Over-harvesting and over-fishing has led to sturgeon becoming endangered in many parts of the world.

Angling: Though sturgeon are primarily bottom feeders, they are also agile, acrobatic fish known to leap high into the air when hooked. Their strength, agility, tenacity, and size demand heavy-duty line and equipment – anything less will wind up broken or bent.

Working the bottom with live bait such as nightcrawlers, shrimp, crayfish, and worms, and/or cut bait is the best tactic when going after lake sturgeon (actually, spearfishing is probably a better tactic, though it’s illegal most places). Select a bait that matches the local forage base in an area where sturgeon are known to prowl. Once cast, it’s best to let the bait sink to the bottom on a heavy weight then simply be patient and wait a good while for the sturgeon to show up before trying another location.

Lake Sturgeon are endangered in many parts of the world, so be sure to check into local regulations before pursuing them.