‘Tis the season for sturgeon spawning

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Early June is still spawning season for sturgeon, but remember that it is illegal to fish for sturgeon in New York state. Contributed photo

Lake sturgeon typically spawn (reproduce) in late April to early June over gravelly areas (the spaces between the rocks make great hiding spots for the eggs!), so you’re more likely to encounter them this time of year, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

You may spot one breaching out of the water, a behavior that’s exhibited during the spawning season, or if you’re fishing, you may hook into one (remember, fishing for them is strictly prohibited).

If you do happen to catch a sturgeon, follow these tips for a safe and efficient release:

  • Avoid bringing sturgeon into your boat or on shore, minimizing its time out of the water
  • Use pliers to remove the hook quickly
  • Support the fish horizontally. Holding it vertically, by the head, gills or tail can cause serious injury.
  • Move to another fishing spot or switch lures/technique to avoid re-hooking or catching another sturgeon

The fact that there is now outreach about lake sturgeon is pretty incredible, according to the DEC. Ten years ago, you would be hard pressed to encounter a sturgeon, but thanks to DEC, US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), US Geological Survey (USGS), Cornell University, Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe (SRMT) and their partners, they’re making a serious comeback after being nearly extirpated in the 1980s. ‘

Understanding the sturgeon’s habitat preference, movement patterns, and spawning sites through field work and research, coupled with a strategic stocking program, has helped bolster populations of this prehistoric species in many waters in the state.

The ultimate goal is to get these populations to a point where they’re self-sustaining (i.e. they don’t need help from humans) and eventually removed from a “threatened” status in New York.  

Recently, lake sturgeon was reviewed for listing under the authority of the federal Endangered Species Act. DEC and its recovery partners contributed data and comments to the federal review that led to a finding of “listing not warranted.”