Rare Lake Sturgeon Spawning in the Upper Iowa River

Decorah Fish Hatchery Natural Resource Technician Chris Larson is sharing a story with decorahnews.com about a lake sturgeon caught by  Rob Griffith of Urbandale, Iowa:

Griffith caught the fish in the Upper Iowa River on May 5th.  Lake sturgeon are considered an endangered species in Iowa.  They are found occasionally in the Mississippi River and in some of Iowa’s interior rivers as they move into these rivers to spawn. They are considered a primitive fish since they have cartilage instead of bones and have been around for millions of years.

Their numbers have declined in the last century due to the construction of dams (which impede movement to suitable spawning areas), the loss of rocky, fast water spawning areas due to farmland siltation and erosion and over-harvest. Missouri and other states have stocking programs to attempt to help stop or slow the decline of this unique species. This individual fish, around four feet in length, is estimated to be near 25 years old, and finally becoming sexually mature–it takes that long!

Larson says it is possible to encounter a lake sturgeon, and they should immediately be released unharmed. There is another species of sturgeon, the shovel-nose sturgeon, which is more common and sometimes caught in the Upper Iowa River. They have a characteristic “dished out” face and upturned nose.  They do not get as large as the lake sturgeon. This species has harvestable regulations associated with it.

If you have any questions, or want any additional info, please contact Chris at the Decorah Hatchery.


Learn more about Lake Sturgeon, the largest species of fish in the Great Lakes region, and one that lived with the dinosaurs: