D.E.C. Warning on Lake Sturgeon

May 13, 2011 Updated May 13, 2011 at 4:45 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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D.E.C. Warning on Lake Sturgeon

May 13, 2011 Updated May 13, 2011 at 4:45 PM EDT

Buffalo, NY (WKBW)

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reminds anglers to be aware of spawning lake sturgeon in tributaries of the Great Lakes, Finger Lakes and Oneida Lake. Last season DEC staff received numerous reports of lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) caught by anglers in Buffalo Harbor. Lake sturgeon are listed as a threatened species in New York, therefore, there is no open season for the fish and possession is prohibited.

Anglers are more likely to encounter sturgeon in May and June when the fish gather to spawn on clean gravel or cobble shoals and in stream rapids. Those who unintentionally hook a sturgeon should follow the below practices to ensure that the fish are returned to the water unharmed: Avoid bringing the fish into the boat if possible. Use pliers to remove the hook; sturgeon are almost always hooked in the mouth. Always support the fish horizontally. Do not hold sturgeon in a vertical position by their head, gills, or tails, even for taking pictures. Never touch their eyes or gills. Minimize their time out of the water.

Lake sturgeon populations are recovering as a result of protection and stocking efforts by DEC and partners. Since 1994, sturgeon have been periodically stocked by DEC into Black Lake, Cayuga Lake, Genesee River, Oneida Lake, Oswegatchie River, Raquette River, St. Lawrence River, and St. Regis River. They are often tagged as part of ongoing research efforts by state and federal agencies. If you find a tagged sturgeon, please follow the reporting instructions on the tag or contact your regional DEC office for assistance.

These ancient fish first appeared during the Upper Cretaceous period 136 million years ago when dinosaurs still walked the earth. Lake sturgeon are one of three species of sturgeon native to New York. They are native to the Mississippi River Basin, Great Lakes Basin, and Hudson Bay region of North America and are the largest fish native to the Great Lakes, growing up to seven or more feet in length and achieving weights of up to 300 pounds. Male sturgeon live as long as 55 years and females live as long as 80 to 150 years.

Sturgeon were once abundant in New York, but commercial fishing, dam building and habitat loss decimated populations. Today they can still be found in Lake Erie, Niagara River, Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River, Genesee River, Grasse River, Oswegatchie River, Black Lake, Lake Champlain, Cayuga Lake, Oneida Lake, Oneida River, Seneca River, Oswego River and Cayuga Canal.

More information on lake sturgeon in New York and other threatened or endangered fish can be found on the DEC web site:
http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/26035.html
http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7008.html
http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/26045.html