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DEC advises anglers to be on the lookout for lake sturgeon in Great Lakes, Oneida Lake


Wed, Jun 29th 2016 12:25 pm

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation reminded anglers to be aware of spawning lake sturgeon in New York's Great Lakes waters, Great Lakes connecting channels, and in tributaries of the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River, Finger Lakes and Oneida Lake.

DEC staffers receive numerous reports of lake sturgeon (acipenser fulvescens) caught by anglers targeting walleye at this time of year.

"Due to ongoing restoration efforts by DEC and our partners, encounters between anglers and lake sturgeon are becoming increasingly common," Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "We ask for anglers to help protect these impressive fish during this critical period in their long recovery."

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 should not intentionally target these rare fish. If an angler catches a sturgeon, he should move to another area or change fishing gear to avoid catching another. Anglers who unintentionally hook one should follow practices to ensure the fish are returned to the water unharmed. Tips include:

  • 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 its head, gills or tails.
  • Never touch its eyes or gills.
  • Minimize its time out of the water, and return it to the water immediately once it is freed from fishing gear.

Anglers are likely to encounter sturgeon during the spring when the fish gather to spawn on clean gravel or cobble shoals and in stream rapids. Sturgeon spawn in New York in May and June when water temperatures reach 55 to 64o F. Females release as many as 7,000 eggs per pound of fish. Male sturgeon become sexually mature between 8 and 12 years of age and may live as long as 55 years. Females become sexually mature between 14 and 33 years of age and live as long as 80 to 150 years. 

Lake sturgeon populations are recovering as a result of protection and stocking efforts by DEC and several partners. Several populations in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River appear to be recovering due to protection efforts. Other populations are supported by stocking.

Adult sturgeon are captured in the St. Lawrence River and their eggs and sperm are collected by DEC biologists and partners from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the New York Power Authority facilities below the Moses-Saunders Dam. The fertilized eggs are reared in DEC's Oneida Hatchery and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Genoa National Fish Hatchery to a size of about 6 inches before stocking.

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