- The largest freshwater fish in the Northern Hemisphere belong to the sturgeon family.
- The biggest sturgeon reported in Alberta weighed 48 kilograms (105 pounds) and was 155 centimetres (61 inches) in length.
- A living "dinosaur" of the fish world, this unusual species is torpedo-shaped and armor-plated.
- Instead of scales, the sturgeon's large brown or grey body is covered with tough, leather-like tissue and five rows of bony plates.
- It has a shark-like, upturned tail and a pointed snout with four barbels, whisker-like tissue filaments.
- Lake Sturgeon range in the North and South Saskatchewan river systems.
- Despite the name, lake sturgeon are strictly river fish in Alberta.
- Sturgeon are mostly bottom feeders. Their varied diet includes tiny organisms such as:
- insect larvae
- plant material
- some fish and fish eggs
Reproduction and Growth
- Spawning takes place in late spring, every five years or so.
- Females do not build a nest, but deposit their eggs in the river current. Males swim close to the females during egg laying to fertilize the eggs.
- Large females can produce up to 500,000 eggs.
- Lake sturgeon take a longer time to reach maturity than other Alberta fish species.
- Male sturgeon do not spawn until they are about 15 to 20 years old. Females usually spawn between the ages of 20 and 25.
- Lake sturgeon can live up to 100 years, the longest life span of Alberta's cool-water fishes.
Conservation and Management
Lake sturgeon are classified as At Risk in the current General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:
Sturgeon are also classified as Threatened under Alberta's Wildlife Act; protective regulations under this act that apply to fish species are under development. See:
This species is also protected under the Alberta Fisheries Regulations, which regulate fisheries harvest in Alberta.
- Populations are at or below critical levels for sustainability.
- Threats include habitat degradation and fragmentation.
- Inherent biological characteristics make recovery difficult.
Fish Sustainability Index
Alberta's lake sturgeon populations have been assessed under the Fish Sustainability Index, see:
Lake sturgeon are cool-water game fish subject to current Alberta sportfishing regulations. For details, see the My Wild Alberta website at:
Sturgeon fishing is strictly catch and release to preserve this unusual and interesting species. For an explanation of current management strategies, see:
Lake sturgeon monitoring in the North Saskatchewan River was recently profiled in an episode of Hidden Gems on the Alberta Prime Time website. See: