Unlike the anadromous species of sturgeon that migrate the coastline and spend time in the estuaries and bays, the lake sturgeon spends its lifetime in freshwater. They are bottom-dwelling, shallow water fish, and the largest and longest lived of all freshwater species.
Lake sturgeon were once widespread throughout the larger rivers and lakes of the mid-eastern United States and into Canada, but that isn't the case anymore.
During the early to late 1800s, commercial fishermen considered lake sturgeon a nuisance, and destroyed them in large numbers, often tossing them on the shore to die. It wasn't until the late 1890s that commercial fishermen realized they were a valuable resource, and began targeting them for their flesh, roe, and swim bladders. Millions of pounds were processed into smoked sturgeon, caviar, fish oil for fuel, and isinglass, a material used as a binding agent for paint, and a clarifying agent in beer and wine.
Heavy exploitation had progressively depleted lake sturgeon populations over most of their historic range, but it wasn't the fishing pressure alone that was detramental to their survival. It was a culmination of overfishing, their life history characteristics such as late sexual maturity and periodic spawning, dams, loss of habitat, pollution, and other anthropogenic impacts that caused the lake sturgeon to be extirpated over much of its historic range. In a short half-century civilization managed to destroy vast populations of a species that has survived on earth for over 300 million years. There are only a few healthy self-sustaining lake sturgeon populations left in North America today.
Lake sturgeon spawning activity above and below water in the Wolf River. Click on Sturgeon Gallery Link in right margin.
They have a rubbery, siphon-like mouth that acts like a vacuum to pick-up worms, aquatic insects, mussels, crustaceans, and small fish from the bottom.
See the Sturgeon Gallery for taped interviews with Dave Ross, former Endangered Species Coordinator, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and Paul Feurst, Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, Ohio State University.