Sturgeon Surgeon Travis Moore equips slippery patients with high-tech tracking devices.
Q: What’s a lake sturgeon?
A: Lake sturgeons are Missouri’s largest and longest-living fish. They can weigh more than 200 pounds and live more than 100 years. They have whiskers, rubbery snouts, and toothless, tube-shaped mouths that they use to suck insects off the bottom of big rivers.
Q: How do you operate on a sturgeon?
A: We place the sturgeon on its back, strap it down, and put a hose in its mouth to pump water over its gills. I use a scalpel to make a tiny cut in the fish’s belly so I can put a transmitter inside. Then I stitch the sturgeon up. The whole thing takes less than 5 minutes.
Q: Does it hurt the fish?
A: Nope. We’ve re-caught fish that we operated on earlier. You can’t even see a scar where we put in the transmitter.
Q: What do the transmitters do?
A: Each transmitter puts out a unique pattern of beeps. We use underwater microphones to listen for the beeps so we can find and follow individual sturgeons. It’s like playing high-tech hide-and-seek with a bunch of great big fish.
Q: Why do you track sturgeons?
A: In the 1800s, lake sturgeons nearly disappeared from Missouri because of habitat loss, pollution, and unregulated fishing. We want to learn where sturgeons hang out, where they lay eggs, and where they travel. That way, we can protect those places and provide more places like them.
Nichole LeClair Terrill