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Sturgeons

By Bill Hauser

Lately, I have had “sturgeons” on my mind a lot. Did I just say that?? It has probably been a long time since you have heard someone say anything like that. But on and off for some 4 to 6 weeks, I have kept finding some article about sturgeons; usually in one technical report or another. They are hard to ignore.

Although there are 27 species of sturgeon worldwide today, they have been around for nearly 250 million years. All are in the northern hemisphere. Individuals may live to the age of 50 years. But their first spawning may be at 15 to 20 years of age and they spawn many thousands of small eggs. So this is a clue that they are quite vulnerable to over harvest. Many – but not all – are anadromous. Sturgeons have several unique features. They have a protrusible mouth that allows them to vacuum up worms, mollusks and other organisms from the bottom materials. They also have sensitive barbels (long, slender, soft fleshy sensory organ; like “whiskers” on catfish) on the underside of the snout. Barbels contain taste buds that may aid in finding food as they cruise along the bottom. Also, sturgeons have a row of bony, sharpened plates, called scutes, along their back. Their skeleton is mostly cartilaginous.

There are two species of sturgeons in Alaska waters: white sturgeon and green sturgeon. Mainly, these are found in southeastern Alaska and the center of their distribution is in waters off the mouth of the Columbia River. The green sturgeon has a smaller range in Alaska and is the smaller of the two. It reaches a length of about 6.5 feet and weighs in at about 350 pounds. The white sturgeon is the largest fish found in freshwaters of North America may be more than about 20 feet in length and weigh 1,900 pounds. The heaviest documented white sturgeon actually weighed was 1,386 pounds. The largest of all sturgeons is the beluga sturgeon in the Caspian Sea. These may be 18 feet long and weigh 4,400 pounds.

Sturgeons. Interesting fish. But you know by now, of course, I think that all fish are interesting.

Alaska Fly Fishers, 200 W 34th Ave, Suite 1233, Anchorage, AK 99503

 
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