St. Lawrence River sturgeon a protected species; don’t fish for them or land them, DEC warns
Saturday, May 17, 2014 - 5:09 pm

State conservation officers are reminding people fishing in the St. Lawrence River that sturgeon are a threatened species and should not be caught.

Doug Carlson, state Department of Environmental Conservation Rare Fish Project Officer in Watertown, said lake sturgeon are protected by law.Lake sturgeon in the St. Lawrence River during spawning season. Photo by Jennifer Hayes, 2011.Lake sturgeon in the St. Lawrence River during spawning season. Photo by Jennifer Hayes, 2011.

He noted that sturgeon, which live 150 years and weigh more than 300 pounds, were nearly eliminated from New York waters, so DEC is working to restore them.

He emphasized there is no open season for lake sturgeon and people should not fish for them.

If you catch one, release it, he said. Don't bring it into your boat and minimize its time out of water, he added.

Possessing and selling sturgeon are punishable by jail time and fines, he said.

His comments were prompted by a photo posted earlier this week of an angler who caught a sturgeon in the St. Lawrence River near Ogdensburg.

The photo showed a happy angler who said he had battled a 5-foot, 6-inch lake sturgeon for two hours before he took the fish aboard his boat and got some photos. He said he released it after that.

But Carlson was concerned the photo and the caption send “the wrong message as long as they are threatened and protected from undue harm.

“Fisheries is glad that anglers are able to enjoy fishing and share news with others about their catches,” but he said he believes the picture, without some explanation, “is likely to encourage other anglers to pursue lake sturgeon.

“The blood in the picture shows things didn't go well with the fish and the promotion of this event seems inappropriate. The guy didn't break the law, but we hope things turn out differently” the next time someone encounters a sturgeon.

Carlson suggests people consult a sturgeon factsheet at http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/26035.html