Lake sturgeon can live for more than 100 years and grow to seven feet in length, making them the largest freshwater fish in New York. Because of this long lifespan and delayed sexual maturity, lake sturgeon are incredibly vulnerable to over-fishing and population depletion.
The 2021 population assessment says that the lake sturgeon population in the Upper St. Lawrence River has exceeded metrics set in DEC’s Lake Sturgeon Recovery Plan for adult spawning and juvenile recruitment.
The Lake Sturgeon Recovery Plan, written in 2018, set the following goal for lake sturgeon in New York State: “Establish or maintain sufficient self-sustaining populations of lake sturgeon within six of the seven management units to warrant removal of lake sturgeon from the list of threatened species in New York.” Lake sturgeon have been on New York’s threatened species list since 1983.
With the addition of the Upper St. Lawrence Management Unit, the lake sturgeon population has now reached the State’s target in four of the seven management units. When the population reaches the target level in two more management units, DEC is expected to seek the removal of lake sturgeon from the threatened species list.
The Upper St. Lawrence Management Unit for lake sturgeon runs from Cape Vincent downstream to the Moses Saunders Dam and includes the Oswegatchie River drainage. Based on sampling of populations in Black Lake, the Oswegatchie River, and the spawning beds near the Iroquois Dam on the St. Lawrence River, DEC documented healthy reproducing adult lake sturgeon and the presence of several year classes of juveniles throughout the management unit.
DEC began its lake sturgeon restoration program in 1993 by stocking four sites. In 2021, DEC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stocked 10 locations. More than 275,000 lake sturgeon have been stocked into New York waters since 1993.
Partial funding for the lake sturgeon recovery program comes from the State Wildlife Grant Program and the Fish Enhancement, Mitigation and Research Fund, both administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
For more information on how DEC tracks lake sturgeon, visit DEC’s YouTube page.
Photos of Lake Sturgeon recovery efforts provided.