News Releases

Sturgeon collision on Santa Fe injures one

News Release

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Media contact: Karen Parker, 386-754-1294

A Lake City resident escaped serious injury Saturday, May 23, when a sturgeon collided with her boat on the Santa Fe River.

Cynthia Graves (DOB 05/18/56) was operating a pontoon boat on the Santa Fe when a sturgeon jumped out of the water and struck the console and windshield of the vessel, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers.

Graves was struck by the fish, but didn’t require medical attention. FWC Officer Kyle Pekerol was dispatched to the scene after Graves’ daughter reported the incident.

“The only damage to the boat was the broken windshield,” Pekerol said. “The fish flopped out of the boat and back into the water.”

The collision occurred between the Ichetucknee River and Sandy Point, a local boat ramp and campground.

“I’m extremely glad to hear that Ms. Graves wasn’t seriously injured,” said Maj. Andy Krause, commander for the FWC’s North Central Region in Lake City. “However, boaters should be aware that these fish are in the Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers. We want people to enjoy the recreational opportunities on the rivers, but we also want people to be aware that these fish do jump and can hurt you.”

This is the first reported strike in two years and the first collision reported on the Santa Fe River. In the past, the FWC has documented sturgeon strikes only on the Suwannee River in this area.

“Please don’t think this can’t happen to you. If you are recreating on the rivers during the summer months, there’s a good chance you could encounter a sturgeon jumping out of the water,” Krause said.

The FWC recommends going slow to reduce the risk of impact and to have more reaction time if a jumping sturgeon is encountered. All boaters are encouraged to wear their life jacket at all times while on the water and keep passengers off the bow of the boat.

“We had no reported strikes for 2013 and 2014. However, we do want people to know they should be cautious when on the Suwannee and Santa Fe. We certainly don’t want anyone else injured,” Krause said.

These collisions aren’t attacks. The fish aren’t targeting boaters. They are simply doing what they have been doing for millions of years: jumping. Researchers have discovered sturgeon jump for two reasons: to fill their swim bladders to maintain neutral buoyancy and to communicate with other fish.

While it is possible for them to jump anywhere in the river, sturgeon in the Suwannee are more commonly observed jumping where they gather in “holding” areas. Major holding areas in the Suwannee occur above Jack's Sandbar; below Manatee Springs; between Fanning Spring and Usher Landing; below Old Town Trestle; below the conjunction of the Santa Fe and Suwannee rivers; near Rock Bluff; and below Anderson Springs. There are a number of less important holding areas too.

Biologists estimate the annual population of sturgeon in the Suwannee River to be between 10,000-14,000 fish, averaging 40 pounds. However, a few exceed 170 pounds. They can leap more than 7 feet out of the water. To add to the seriousness of being hit by one, the fish have five rows of armor-like scutes.

Adult fish spend eight to nine months each year in the river, spawning in May, and then return to the Gulf during the coolest months to feed.

State and federal laws protect sturgeon, just like bald eagles, panthers and sea turtles. Gulf sturgeon cannot be harvested.

To report sturgeon collisions, call 888-404-FWCC (3922).

For more information about Gulf sturgeon, go to and click on “Saltwater” then “Sturgeon.”

FWC Facts:
The Florida snail kite is aptly named - it feeds almost exclusively on apple snails and, in the United States, is found only in Florida.

Learn More at AskFWC