FWC: Gulf Sturgeon Migration Underway into Florida Rivers, Beware of Federally Protected Fish Can Leap 9 Feet into Air
By Space Coast Daily // July 4, 2023
FWC urges boaters to go slow, maintain 360-degree awareness for jumping sturgeon
(FWC) – Gulf sturgeon have made their annual migration back into the Suwannee River as well as most other rivers in northwest Florida, including the Apalachicola, Choctawhatchee, Yellow, and Escambia.
Be alert and keep an eye out while on the water because these large, federally protected fish are jumping.
We urge boaters to go slow and maintain 360-degree awareness for jumping sturgeon from now through the end of summer.
To stay safe around jumping sturgeons and to avoid collisions, follow these three safe boating practices:
■ Go slow; allow more time for the vessel operator to react if the sturgeon jumps in front of you.
■ Keep off the bow of the boat and pay attention to your surroundings; the sturgeon may jump when you least expect it.
■ Always wear your life jacket. If you’re knocked out of the boat, hurt, and unconscious, a life jacket will help keep you afloat.
The Gulf sturgeon, also known as the Gulf of Mexico sturgeon, is one of seven species of sturgeon found in North America. Sturgeons are prehistoric species that date back to the time of dinosaurs.
Sturgeons are popular in the food industry as a source of caviar. They have physical features that separate them from other kinds of fish, such as a spiral valve stomach and cartilaginous skeleton (like sharks and rays); however, they have scutes (hard, protective, large individual body plates) instead of shark’s denticles or bony fish’s scales.
Gulf sturgeon have barbels located on the underside of the snout, no teeth, rubbery lips, and a suctorial mouth for vacuuming food off the bottom. The sturgeon’s coloring typically is dark brown along the upper (dorsal) side shading to a creamy white-colored belly (Wakeford 2001).
Gulf sturgeon are large fish that can exceed a length of eight feet, have a weight of over 300 pounds, and possess the strength to leap nine feet into the air.
What is there to appreciate about a big fish? Plenty, say scientists who study the Gulf sturgeon. The Gulf sturgeon grows to greater than six feet in length, sports bony plates on its head and body, has fleshy “whiskers” on its long snout, and has no internal skeleton.
This ancient fish evolved from much larger ancestors that lived more than 225 million years ago. Gulf sturgeon may live for more than 40 years, not reaching sexual maturity until seven or eight years of age or later.