Lake sturgeon will again be stocked in North Country waters as part of a restoration program for the threatened fish species.
On Oct. 22, more than 10,000 fingerlings -- four-month-old 5- to 8-inch fish -- will be released into the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries.
Roughly 7,000 lake sturgeon will be stocked in the St. Lawrence River in Ogdensburg at the Greenbelt boat launch off Riverside Avenue.
The Salmon River, St. Regis River, and Raquette River will receive a portion of the remaining fingerlings.
Under the restoration program, eggs were collected from mature fish at the New York Power Authority St. Lawrence River Power Dam in Massena this spring. After fertilizing, the eggs were transported to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) fish hatchery in Genoa, Wisconsin, and the hatched fish were nourished until they were large enough to be stocked back into the wild.
Lake sturgeon once flourished in waters along New York’s northern border and provided large commercial harvests near Buffalo. In 1885, harvests totaled 1,800 tons. Prior to the decline in the sturgeon populating, these large fish inhabited all areas of New York’s border waters on the west, north and northeast regions of the state, including Lake Erie, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, Lake Champlain and in several St. Lawrence River tributaries up to 60 miles upstream.
“This magnificent fish species was classified as threatened in New York State nearly 40 years ago, but stocking continues to help reverse population declines that occurred earlier this century," said Judy Drabicki, Region 6 Director for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) office in Watertown.
"Previous stocking efforts in tributaries like these in St. Lawrence County have demonstrated success, with dozens of sturgeon ranging up to 48 inches being observed and some having reached maturity, when they are ready to spawn,” Drabicki said.
This restoration effort is made possible in collaboration with USFWS, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, the New York Power Authority, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
David Stilwell of the USFWS said, "One of the service's goals is to work towards fully functional and sustainable landscapes. This multi-agency effort to reintroduce lake sturgeon to New York rivers brings us one step closer to restoring the natural heritage of New York waterways. We look forward to working together in partnership on future projects in the St. Lawrence River tributaries."
Hatchery fingerlings are produced for bodies of water chosen as having the best prospects for restoration. A sign of the program’s success is mature fish sightings in spawning locations in the Oswegatchie River when they are ready to spawn. In addition, small fish have been collected from Oneida Lake that were naturally spawned.
Inquiries about this threatened fish restoration program and other similar projects can be directed to DEC, Bureau of Fisheries in Watertown, at 785-2263.
Additional information on lake sturgeon can be found on DEC’s website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/26035.html.