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Published on: Apr. 20, 2011

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is located on the underside of the head. Functioning like a vacuum cleaner, this unique mouth design allows sturgeon to feed by inhaling food items off from the bottom while keeping their bodies parallel to the current.

Worldwide, there are approximately 24 species of sturgeon. Among these are some of the truly gigantic freshwater fish. The white sturgeon, found in Pacific coastal rivers, can approach 20 feet in length and weigh in excess of 1,500 pounds. In Missouri, we have three species of sturgeon. Two of the three species, the lake sturgeon and the pallid sturgeon, are endangered. Fortunately, their numbers are increasing due to hatchery rearing and stocking efforts. The remaining Missouri sturgeon species, the shovelnose, is by far the most common and smallest of the three, seldom reaching 4 pounds. The populations of all three species of sturgeon in Missouri are at varying levels of risk due to overharvest, habitat loss and contaminants. Sturgeon are slow-growing, long-lived fish that can attain ages of 100 years or more. Like many species of fish that live for decades, they reach sexual maturity later in life and, once there, may not spawn but every three to five years. This type of reproductive strategy makes sturgeon populations extremely vulnerable to overharvest. Although shovelnose sturgeon are fairly common, their numbers have been declining. They recently gained protection from commercial harvest throughout the Missouri River and the lower portion of the Mississippi River, in part because they are very similar in appearance to small individuals of the federally protected pallid sturgeon. Although strong populations of lake sturgeon exist in other states, the Missouri population has declined over the past century due to high commercial harvest in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

To catch a sturgeon, you have to go where the sturgeon are. In Missouri, this means fishing in either the Missouri or Mississippi rivers. From late fall through the winter, and into early spring, sturgeon are frequently found in the deep scour holes associated with the numerous rock dikes, either in or near fast flowing water. As the water warms in the spring and into the summer months, sturgeon can be found in association with sand bars, especially those with water flowing over them. Sand flats, tributary mouths, and tail waters are also likely places to look. As for bait, it’s hard to beat the common night crawler, but cut shad, crayfish

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