100-Year-Old Monster Caught in Michigan

The Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation office in Michigan caught a record lake sturgeon in late April. The native species crew was conducting routine surveys in the Detroit River when the gigantic sturgeon was caught. 

It was the biggest fish our team has ever seen,” said Jason Fischer, one of the fish biologists that caught the sturgeon. “We had a crew of three people doing the survey, and this fish took all three of us to get it onto our boat.

The team states the fish is a 100-year-old female. She weighs a whopping 240 pounds, measures 6 feet 10 inches long with a 4 foot girth. This lake sturgeon is one of the largest ever recorded in the United States. She was promptly released back into the river after being weighed, measured, and tagged.

Sturgeon typically measure between 7-12 feet long, weighing upwards of 200 pounds. The lifespan of the fish is approximately 150 years. 

This image shows the massive lake sturgeon that was caught.
A member of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey crew lays down beside a massive lake sturgeon pulled from the Detroit River onto the deck of boat by fish biologist Jason Fischer. Photo by USFWS.

Shortnose Sturgeon Caught in Potomac River

Until April 9th, the shortnose sturgeon hadn’t been seen in the Potomac River for 14 years. Local anglers Connor Lynch and Josh Cohn were stunned when they realized they caught a fish they thought was extinct in the area decades ago. “It was like ‘Oh my God! This is literally a unicorn,” says Lynch. 

A fish biologist from the Fish and Wildlife Service, Mike Mangold, says that “It’s exciting and really interesting that this fish was caught in April that far up the river because it suggests the possibility that there is spawning going on.” 

Rare shortness sturgeon caught on Potomac River in D.C.
The anglers left the fish in the water as they took this picture. The sturgeon was then promptly released.

So, What’s the Big Deal? 

Almost all of the world’s sturgeon (acipenseridae) are endangered, threatened, or bordering extinction. All 26 variants of this pre-historic species have survived for over 245 million years. In the 1800s and into the early 1900s, however, these fish were heavily overfished. Their meat was pickled, skin converted to leather, eggs turned to caviar, and body oils used for paints. Dam structures and sediment build-up from farming and logging currently threaten their spawning potential and the overall health of their freshwater ecosystems.

The sturgeon is particularly prone to population declines since their reproductive age begins in their late teen years. The females spawn once every four to five years. Management solutions include tracking sturgeon during migration to identify spawning grounds, rehabilitating freshwater ecosystems, and stocking certain river systems. Female eggs are collected, inseminated, reared, and reintroduced.

The presence of sturgeon in their native freshwater ecosystem signals the success of these conservation efforts and healthy rivers. However, the work is not close to being done. 

Do your part to help restore all sturgeon species.  If you happen to catch one of these “unicorns,” however, and local regulations allow, gently measure and release the fish. Do not take it out of the water. If the fish is tagged, record the agency, number, and color and contact the agency. If you have any sturgeon sighting, contact your local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office and share the approximate location and size of the fish. 

For more information on threatened freshwater species, click here

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