The Other Sturgeon Species

Pallid sturgeon and their close relatives, the shovelnose sturgeon, are not the only sturgeon in the Missouri River. USGS and state research biologists sampling for pallid sturgeon in the Missouri River occasionally collect specimens of the “other” sturgeon species, the lake sturgeon (Photo 1—lake sturgeon). Lake sturgeon live in the large lakes and rivers of the mid-continental United States and Canada. They can live more than 100 years, grow to more than 2 meters (6 feet) or 90 kilograms (200 pounds), and may take more than 20 years to reach reproductive maturity. Similar to the pallid sturgeon, lake sturgeon populations declined dramatically as North America entered the 20th century. Overfishing, dam construction, channelization of large rivers, and unchecked pollution eliminated or severely reduced most populations. The lake sturgeon was nearly extirpated from the Missouri River by 1910. The species was listed as a State Endangered Species in Missouri in 1974. In 1984 the Missouri Department of Conservation began the long, but sustained effort to return the species to Missouri waters. The heavily built lake sturgeon, with its short conical snout (Photo 2—lake sturgeon head) is caught on trotlines while sampling for pallid sturgeon. Information about each captured sturgeon and the hatchery tags they carry are reported to the Missouri Department of Conservation to aid their efforts in monitoring populations and tracking progress towards recovery. Some of the lake sturgeon stocked early in the State’s recovery program are now more than 30 or 40 pounds are and searching for a suitable place to spawn.

Check out the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Lake Sturgeon webpage to learn more about the State’s efforts to recover the “other” Missouri River sturgeon. And if you happen to be out on the Missouri or Mississippi River, or one their tributaries and you are fortunate to catch a large lake sturgeon, your local Missouri Conservation Department office would like to hear about it.

Photo 1. A USGS Biologist holds a juvenile lake sturgeon caught on a trotline while sampling for pallid sturgeon. The young lake sturgeon had a PIT tag that identified it as a fish previously captured and released by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Photo 2. Compared to the pale, slender pallid sturgeon, the dark brown or olive grey lake sturgeon has a stocky build and a conical shaped nose snout. It is commonly referred to as a “rubbernose” sturgeon.

 

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