Researchers caught a huge lake sturgeon at Cayuga Lake in New York in October. The 154-pound, 6-foot-5 fish, caught by New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) biologists conducting a population survey, was nearly twice as large as the largest sturgeon previously captured in Cayuga. It weighed only 5 pounds less than a sturgeon believed to be the largest ever encountered in New York. The fish, caught last year by researchers at Oneida Lake, weighed 159.4 pounds and was 26 years old.
The lake sturgeon is New York’s largest freshwater fish, but it is off-limits to recreational anglers. Nearly wiped out in the late 1800s by overfishing, dams and pollution, the endangered species is protected in the Empire State, where it is the subject of a restoration effort that began in 1992. Since then , New York has stocked 300,000 sturgeon in streams. where they once thrived, including Oneida, Cayuga, and some tributaries of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.
Many of these hatchery-raised fish carry Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags that help scientists monitor sturgeon movements and growth. Researchers are also tagging any wild lake sturgeon they catch during their net surveys, as they did with the recently captured 6-foot-5 bird.
“Acoustic tags are scanned by receivers throughout the lake and are picked up as fish pass by, providing insight into where the fish are moving in the lake,” said biologist Emily Zollweg-Horan. senior aquatics at NYDEC. Syracuse Post Standard. She says the 66-square-mile Cayuga Lake has 42 tagged sturgeon out of an estimated population of 400, which is considered a major step towards recovery. NYDEC is expected to release a full progress report next year.
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An obstacle to the return of the species is its slow rate of maturation. Males reach sexual maturity between 8 and 19 years old and females between 14 and 23 years old. That said, the lake sturgeon is also one of the longest-lived freshwater fish, and females have been known to survive over 80 years.
New York fishing regulations prohibit intentionally targeting lake sturgeon, and any accidentally snagged by recreational anglers should be released immediately. Although listed as threatened or endangered in nearly every U.S. state where they are found, lake sturgeon are subject to limited recreational fishing in some states, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. . The IGFA world record all-tackle is a 168-pound lake sturgeon caught in Georgian Bay, Ontario in May 1982.