Often referred to as a “living dinosaur”, Sturgeon are a found in every continent in the northern hemisphere in both fresh and salt water. They are a cartilaginous fish – meaning that they have cartilage based frame rather than bones as such – much like a shark.
In terms of habitat, they are mostly bottom feeders with a toothless mouth that sits underneath the head much like a stingray. That said, they will feed on just about anything they can find such as clams, mussels, crayfish, worms, lamprey, smelt, anchovies, shad, fish eggs and other dead fish.
In the same fashion as the Catfish, Sturgeon is actually a name used to describe the 27 species of fish belonging to the family Acipenseridae and have been traced back to the Late Cretaceous period as well.
In scientific terms, the family contains 8 extinct fossil species and 28 extant species/subspecies (include 1 species of Sterlet and 2 species of living fossils), in 4 genera. This list uses the original classification scheme:
- Subfamily Acipenserinae
- Genus Acipenser Linnaeus, 1758
- †Acipenser albertensis Lambe 1902 >
- Acipenser baerii J. F. Brandt, 1869 (Siberian sturgeon)
- Acipenser brevirostrum Lesueur, 1818 (Shortnose sturgeon)
- Acipenser dabryanus A. H. A. Duméril, 1869 (Yangtze sturgeon)
- †Acipenser cruciferus (Cope 1876)
- †Acipenser eruciferus Cope 1876
- Acipenser fulvescens Rafinesque, 1817 (Lake sturgeon)
- †Acipenser gigantissimus Nessov 1997
- Acipenser gueldenstaedtii J. F. Brandt & Ratzeburg, 1833 (Russian sturgeon)
- Acipenser medirostris Ayres, 1854 (Green sturgeon)
- Acipenser mikadoi Hilgendorf, 1892 (Sakhalin sturgeon)
- †Acipenser molassicus Probst 1882
- Acipenser naccarii Bonaparte, 1836 (Adriatic sturgeon)
- Acipenser nudiventris Lovetsky, 1828 (Fringebarbel sturgeon)
- †Acipenser ornatus Leidy 1873
- Acipenser oxyrinchus Mitchill, 1815
- Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi Vladykov, 1955 (Gulf sturgeon)
- Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus Mitchill, 1815 (Atlantic sturgeon)
- Acipenser persicus Borodin, 1897 (Persian sturgeon)
- Acipenser ruthenus Linnaeus, 1758 (Sterlet)
- Acipenser schrenckii J. F. Brandt, 1869 (Japanese sturgeon)
- Acipenser sinensis J. E. Gray, 1835 (Chinese sturgeon)
- Acipenser stellatus Pallas, 1771 (Starry sturgeon)
- Acipenser sturio Linnaeus, 1758 (European sea sturgeon)
- †Acipenser toliapicus Agassiz 1844 ex Woodward 1889
- Acipenser transmontanus J. Richardson, 1836 (White sturgeon)
- †Acipenser tuberculosus Probst 1882
- Genus Huso J. F. Brandt & Ratzeburg, 1833
- Genus Acipenser Linnaeus, 1758
- Subfamily Scaphirhynchinae
- Genus Scaphirhynchus Heckel, 1835 (native to North America)
- Genus Pseudoscaphirhynchus Nikolskii, 1900 (native to Central Asia)
As above, members of the Sturgeon family can be found naturally right across the Northern Hemisphere is sub tropical to sub artic waters from North America, Northern Asia and Europe. Most are found in salt water however there are fresh water sub-species also found in freshwater lakes.
And as with Striped Bass, some even move from salt to fresh water to spawn as well.
Sturgeon fish are generally distinguished by their long, spiney, boney looking bodies with prehistoric looking bumps and spikes along their top and sides. Many have four or so whiskers protruding from their under side near their mouths as well.
Their size range varies from species to species however most can grow up to 2 – 5 meters in length and weigh up to 1000kg. In fact, Beluga Sturgeon have been known to reach lengths of 7 meters (24ft) and weigh over 1500kg (3500lb).
Due to their popularity as a sport and table fish, Sturgeon are actually listed by the World Wildlife Fund as an endangered species. And although they can live for over 50 years, they do not reach sexual maturity until the are around 15 to 20 and even then, females only spawn every 2 – 5 years.
For this reason, most Sturgeon fish found in restaurants and supermarkets etc. today are sourced from farms rather than the wild.
As above, Sturgeon are bottom feeders who in all honesty will actually eat anything they can find. In their natural habitats however this usually includes:
They will also feed on other dead fish too.
World Record Size
The largest reported Sturgeon caught was a beluga female captured measuring 7.2 m (23 ft 7 in) and 1,571 kg (3,463 lb) in the Volga Delta in 1827.
Sturgeon Fishing Seasons
Due to their current classification as endangered, most jurisdictions around the world place strict seasonal limits on when fishing in the wild can occur. In most cases, these seasons run from late early spring to late fall. However other factors that can affect this include such influences as whether the ice has melted and how much rain there has been as well.
These limitations can also include the number of lines allowed into the water, bag limits and many also stipulate strict catch and release requirements too.
Best Gear For Catching Sturgeon
As we have already established, Sturgeon are a big fish. And of course, big fish equals big gear. You can catch Sturgeon using both spinning and overhead reels effectively and successfully as follows:
Spinning reel – 8000 – 10000 – lined with mono or braid
Baitcaster reel – 600 – 800 – lined with mono or braid
Rod – around 7ft – 8ft and matching of reel size
Sturgeon will take both bait and lures.
Now, as was backed up by its inclusion on a recent episode of Iron Chef, the answer to whether Surgeon can be eaten is an absolute yes. However, due to the fact that they are found across the entire top of the world, their flavor can vary based on such factors as water quality and diet.
Regardless, Sturgeon is generally described as a mild – medium flavor that can be cooked in a large number of ways. In fact, on Iron chef, they were presented as:
- Tartare (i.e. eaten raw)
- Sushi – again, raw
- Pan fried
And all this with just about any spice or regional influence you can think of. They can also be smoked, oven roasted and deep fried as well.
Oh, and heard of Beluga Caviar? Yep, it comes from Sturgeon!
Check out some more information in regards to eating Sturgeon here.