Gulf sturgeon are a prehistoric fish that date back 200 million years and now live in Florida waters where they spawn.
These giant fish, which can reach 8 feet in length, once swam among the dinosaurs. They have a strange look to them with an armored outer body.
This fish species have been known to grow to become a 200-plus-pound fish in the Steinhatchee, Ecofina, and Suwanee rivers and often reach 50 years of age.
Sturgeon have a suction-type mouth below their head.
Sturgeon have a suction-type mouth below their head. They move from salty Gulf waters to fresh water coastal rivers to spawn.
Sturgeon can be seen jumping directly out of the water 6 feet in the air. Several incidents have been reported of a huge sturgeon making contact with boaters on the Suwanee River, which can cause serious injuries or even death.
I witnessed a sturgeon exploding out of the water getting some fantastic air time while catching boaters off guard.
Merry Beth Ryan, a member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association, can be reached at www.merrybethryanphotography.com, by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone (941) 544-5023.
For all their air time, sturgeon are bottom feeders. Their diet includes shrimp, crabs, mollusks and insects mainly. They have an extended snout and a vertical mouth that helps them capture prey.
There are many theories as to why the sturgeon jump. When sturgeon jump out of the water and land they emit a distinctive sound pattern, which some believe is a means of Sturgeon communication. Others say these fish jump to shake parasites off. One thing is for certain: They use a considerable amount of energy to launch themselves so it must be important otherwise they would not do it.
Boaters on the Suwanee River are asked to go slow and use extreme caution while traveling in order to have more time to react, which can help reduce the risk of serious injuries. Most sturgeon in the Suwanee River are not interested in feeding so much as spawning.
Gulf sturgeon have been listed as a threatened species since 1991 due to commercial harvesting as well as habitat loss. They mainly travel on the bottom of the tannic water and usually at night.
When Sturgeon are migrating out to the Gulf, these enormous fish leap straight out of the water and make a splash larger and louder than normal. Have your cameras ready.