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Introduction of Lake STURGEON
Washington DC Community Link,Atlantic Sturgeon, caviar,russian caviar, iranian caviar, beluga caviar,american caviar,beluga caviar malossol,osetra caviar information center What are lake STURGEON?

Sturgeons (about 27 species world-wide) are a very unique, awe-inspiring group of fish that look like they belong more with dinosaurs than with our current day freshwater fish. In fact, they did coexist with dinosaurs and have changed little since that time.
 They are a cartilaginous (nearly boneless) fish with a shark-like tail, sucker-like mouth, sensitive barbels under its snout and rows of bony scutes (plates) on the side and top of its body. The lake sturgeon is a species that is found primarily in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River drainage area but was also found in the Coosa River basin in northwestern Georgia and northeastern Alabama. Unfortunately, lake sturgeon disappeared from the Coosa River system in the 1960s.

How big and how old can lake sturgeon grow?

One lake sturgeon on record lived to be 154 years of age and another tipped the scales at 310 pounds. Both these records were from northern states in the early 20th century and few, if any, such fish exist today. Unfortunately, little was recorded about the Coosa River population of lake sturgeon but they probably did not live as long or get as large as northern fish due to the warmer waters. Biologists have found a few old pictures of Coosa drainage fish in which the fish appear to weigh up to about 40 pounds.

What do lake sturgeon eat?

Sturgeons are primarily bottom feeders that find their food by smell and touch. Food consumption studies indicate lake sturgeon feed on almost anything they can find, which includes invertebrates, insect larvae, crayfish, worms and mollusks. While these studies found that sturgeon eat some fish and fish eggs, they were not a large component of the lake sturgeon diet. Most food consumption studies found that food items were typically eaten in proportion to the items abundance in the environment. However, several researchers reported a preference for soft-bodied invertebrates such as mayflies.

Why are lake sturgeon populations in such bad shape?

When European settlers first started fishing the Great Lakes the lake sturgeon had little value and were considered a nuisance because they would tangle fishermen's nets. They were wastefully slaughtered in much the same way as the American buffalo. So invaluable were the fish that they were tossed on the bank to rot, fed to hogs and even dried and burned as firewood. About 1860 their value increased dramatically as the demand for their flesh, eggs, and other products increased. Over-harvest quickly occurred and the population dropped to a fraction of its original abundance. In Lake Erie, for example, harvest was over 5 million pounds in 1895 but by 1905 the total harvest was only 100,000 pounds. Today, harvest of lake sturgeon for commercial purposes has stopped and only a few sport fisheries remain.

Efforts to restore the species are hampered by the lake sturgeons low reproductive capabilities. Females from the Great Lakes area do not reproduce until they are 14-25 years of age and then only reproduce every four to nine years. Although lake sturgeon are expected to mature faster in the warmer waters of the Coosa River system, their reproductive capabilities will still be far below other species.

While over-harvest is likely the main cause of the decline, dams that block spawning movements and water pollution have also been blamed. Today, like most sturgeons in the world, lake sturgeon populations are weak and the species continued existence is a concern for fishery managers. Current population numbers are estimated to be less than 1% of their original abundance. Despite the drastic decline in sturgeon numbers, the demand for sturgeon eggs and flesh remains high today. Because of its value, poaching is a concern that further threatens the species.

How will lake sturgeon affect other species, particularly crappie in Lake Weiss?

Although sturgeon will eat fish if they can, their blind, ambling feeding behavior limits their ability to prey on fish, especially mobile species such as crappie. Sturgeon are also known to eat fish eggs (as do many other fish species) which potentially could reduce crappie reproduction. On the other hand, sturgeon can also eat the eggs of crappie competitors and predators, thus reducing competition and reducing species that prey on crappie. So, will sturgeon help or hurt other fish populations? The answer is neither. Sturgeon numbers will be too low to significantly impact other fish populations either positively or negatively. Nowhere in its range is overpopulation of lake sturgeon a problem. In fact, most states do not have enough lake sturgeon to keep them off their rare and endangered species lists. The lake sturgeons low reproduction rate makes the chance of them overpopulating virtually impossible. Even if they did reproduce to greater numbers than desired, it would be easy to reduce the population through harvest regulations since demand for the species is high. Remember also that lake sturgeon is a native species, not an exotic species, which has never been tested in the system before. Lake Weiss likely harbored lake sturgeon after it was built. The dam was completed in 1961, which is a few years before the lake sturgeon disappeared from the Coosa River system. Regarding rare species, keep in mind that sturgeons are opportunistic feeders, which, generally feed on the foods that are most abundant. Thus, if a species is rare, sturgeon will rarely encounter it.

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