When a sturgeon flies through the water, ripples are replaced by small wakes; creatures of this magnitude we don’t usually associate with landlocked bodies of water. But then there’s the lake sturgeons of North America here to prove us wrong and give fishermen a run for their money.
An Evolutionary Time Capsule
Just one quick glance at a lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens), and you’re simultaneously both memorized and taken back—in time, that is. These large two-hundred-plus-pound bottom feeders are covered in osteoderms, making parts of their skin appear more like a crocodile than a fish. These creatures are an example of near-perfect design from the first draft, changing little since the late Triassic period.
Residing On The Little Things
Despite their gargantuan size and pseudo aggressive appearance, lake sturgeon don’t actively hunt down and devour large prey. They’re not going to try to munch on your legs or dangling digits. They are, however, likely to be combing their endemic river or lake bottoms, amassing groups of metazoan (small crustacean-like animals) with their prehensile suction-cup lips. And, as you could only imagine, a near three-hundred-pound fish will need to consume a vast amount of metazoans to sustain itself. Lake sturgeon can be compared to whales in terms of their placement on the food web.
Gone Like The Dinosaurs—Almost
Because of their peculiar appearance, sought after flesh, and relatively nonchalant demeanor, lake sturgeon were fished to near extinction not too long ago. Lake sturgeon were at one point collected in by the million of tons from the Great Lakes region. Now, since quota-capping and other legislation has been pushed to the forefront, numbers are on a steady incline, with established fisheries providing increased species longevity.
If you’re looking for a challenging adversary, head north to Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Michigan—lake sturgeon can be commonly found in the waters up north. Make sure to read up on the laws regarding fishing of these amazing creatures before you go struggling with one for a seemingly endless game of tug-of-war. Sturgeon are slowly making a comeback, so let’s help them along so generations to come can enjoy these prehistoric wonders.