As lake sturgeon continue to be threatened, the New York State DEC is asking anglers to avoid the spawning fish in New York's Great Lakes waters.
Anglers gathering for spring and early summer runs while fishing in NYS are asked to be aware of the possibility that they could encounter spawning lake sturgeon.
Since the threatened sturgeon begin to spawn in May and June, it is possible to encounter the fish on clean gravel or 'cobble' shoals while they are breeding. Once the water temperature reaches around 55-65 degrees the big fish will move into areas that fishermen may be using to target other legal game fish.
There is no open season for sturgeon in New York and possession is prohibited.
Commissioner Basil Seggos said,
"DEC and our partners are engaged in ongoing efforts to restore lake sturgeon to New York's waters. Encounters between anglers and lake sturgeon are becoming increasingly common and we ask anglers to help protect these impressive fish during this critical period in their recovery."
Stocking efforts in the Empire State are a key to survival of the native species in NY waters. Captured adult lake sturgeon from the St. Lawrence River have their fertilized eggs reared at DEC's Oneida Hatchery and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Genoa National Fish Hatchery.
Since the effort is beginning to show success, the state DEC is reminding anglers that sightings and encounters are starting to become more common
Here are the five things, according to the DEC, that anglers should be aware of if they have incidental contact with a sturgeon:
1. Avoid bringing the fish into the boat or onto shore if possible.
2. Use pliers or a fishing tool to remove any hook.
3. Always support the fish horizontally. Do not hold a sturgeon in a vertical position by their head, gills, or tail.
4. Never touch their eyes or gill plates.
5. Minimize the time they spend out of the water and return the sturgeon to the water immediately once freed from your fishing gear.
Lisa Holst, Rare Fish Unit Leader for DEC said,
"Lake sturgeon stocked in the 1990s are just beginning to contribute to the natural reproduction. Restoration of rare species takes time, but due to good science, patience and partnerships these great fish are making a comeback."
Lake sturgeons in NY can grow to a whopping size of seven feet long, and weigh over 200 pounds! Since a wild male can take up 12 years to sexually mature, and a female as many as 30, survival of the species takes on a special meaning.
Capture of the big fish in NY are becoming more common place by biologists. Stay tuned for an update to lake sturgeon recovery plan which is projected to be finalized in late 2017.