Sturgeon Treks 651 Miles on the Mississippi

A decades-long trek that began in Wisconsin carried this lake sturgeon 651 miles past 25 dams before it was recently recaptured on the Mississippi River near Alton, Illinois.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the 56.9-inch, 39.7-pound male sturgeon carried a tag, which according to its color, was installed at least 10 years ago and perhaps as long 25 years ago on the Chippewa River at Jim Falls, Wisconsin. It is the longest known distance a Chippewa River Lake Sturgeon has travelled. Sadly, the number on this fish’s tag was incorrectly recorded, so researchers were unable to indicate exactly when the fish was first captured and tagged. It is an estimated 30 years old, based on length.

The fish was recaptured during a survey by Missouri Department of Conservation researchers near Lock 26 (Melvin Price Dam) less than 20 river miles north of St. Louis. In a Facebook post, it was called “distinctive,” perhaps because of its stubby snout, which appears abnormally short and rounded.

One Facebook comment suggested that the fish might have been injured during what must have been a perilous journey through three dams on the Chippewa and 22 massive lock and dams on the Mississippi.

“Considering this fish was likely too large to fit through the trashracks on the dams on the Chippewa River, it would have had to pass through the spillway gates of the dams during high water events,” WDNR explained. “Downstream movement past dams has been documented for various fish species on the Chippewa River, including lake sturgeon. The locks and dams on the Mississippi River are passible for fish during high water conditions, or when ships travel through the locks.”

The sturgeon was fitted with a new acoustic tag before being safely released. Acoustic tags allow researchers to track the movement of fish via acoustic receivers in the water. As this fish’s amazing journey continues, researchers will know when and where the snub-nosed sturgeon has passed.

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