3 stranded sturgeon rescued, released into Suwannee
Friday, October 15, 2010
Media contact: Karen Parker, 386-758-0525
Three Gulf sturgeon were recently rescued from the
Alapaha River in Hamilton County and released into the Suwannee
River, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
The rescue mission was a partnership between the
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the FWC, and the Suwannee River
Water Management District (District).
"We received two calls about these stranded fish,"
said Dan Dorosheff, FWC freshwater fisheries biologist in Lake
City. "One man called while he was bream fishing. He saw the
sturgeon trapped in a pool that was about 4 feet deep."
The section of the Alapaha River where the fish
were stranded is accessible through District property.
"USGS biologists coordinated with District
personnel and the FWC to plan a rescue of the stuck sturgeon,"
Ken Sulak, USGS research fish biologist, said Gulf
sturgeon had not been seen, reported or netted from the Alapaha
prior to this incident.
"Over the past few years, as the population has
increased, we have observed expansion of habitat use in the upper
river and into the Withlacoochee," Sulak said. "Perhaps this
Alapaha stranding reflects the same phenomenon."
The Suwannee River is fairly low right now,
according to biologists, and the sandbar at the entrance to the
Alapaha cuts off the flow between the two rivers. Typically,
during late summer and early fall, the lower reaches of the Alapaha
River dry up, or more accurately, the river flows underground until
it empties into the Suwannee River. Biologists hoped a good rain
storm would solve the problem, but when that didn't happen, the
scientists decided to rescue the sturgeon.
The biologists were concerned that attempting the
rescue might stress the fish to the point where they wouldn't
survive. However, they decided it was worth the risk.
"I hate to see any Gulf sturgeon die needlessly,"
The three sturgeon were rescued Sept. 22, by
Dorosheff, Sulak and Mike Randall, with the USGS. They netted the
fish and carried them up the rocky river bank in a specially
constructed stretcher. The sturgeon were then transported to the
release site in a mobile tank.
"These sturgeon had been tagged in the past, and
new tags were secured to the fish prior to their release,"
The biologists said the fish appeared healthy. The
three rescued sturgeon were adults, most likely males, ranging from
40 to 60 pounds.
"These fish were probably between 12 and 20 years
old," Sulak said.
The sturgeon were taken to Gibson Park and released
into the Suwannee River just downstream from the Alapaha Rise
The Suwannee River appears to support the largest
viable population of Gulf sturgeon. Biologists estimate the annual
population at 10,000-14,000 fish, averaging approximately 40 pounds
Adult fish spend eight to nine months each year in the river,
spawning in the spring, and then resting for several months. They
spend three to four of the coolest months in Gulf waters. Sturgeon
tend to congregate in deeper waters with moderate currents and
Gulf sturgeon have been in the news in recent years
when boaters encountered the huge jumping fish in the Suwannee
River. However, so far in 2010 no encounters between the fish and
boaters have been reported.