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Lake Sturgeon Restoration

Region 6 Natural Resource Highlight

The DEC is protecting habitats of lake sturgeon and gathering population information. Habitat enhancement was attempted in the St. Lawrence River and may be practical in the Niagara River. The largest populations that appear to be sustaining themselves are in the St. Lawrence River downstream of Massena, the Niagara River and the Grasse River.

Picture of young lake sturgeonDEC has been using artificial propagation of this species to reestablish populations in selected tributaries of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, including the Oswegatchie River, Black Lake, and St. Regis River in northern New York, plus Oneida and Cayuga Lakes. The Oneida Fish Hatchery produces about 5,000 fingerlings each year, originating from the St. Lawrence River at Massena. Evaluation of these stocking efforts in 1999 showed the Oswegatchie River and Oneida Lake had hundreds of juveniles ranging up to 30 inches long, and many had spread to other downstream areas. Another recovery program in a tributary of Lake Ontario, the Genesee River, may include stocking fingerlings in 2001 from eggs taken from the Niagara River.

Activities to increase lake sturgeon populations and, hopefully, remove them from the New York threatened species list include: protection from fishing harvest, habitat improvement, stocking of fingerlings, evaluations of these efforts and educational programs. In order to cover all these activities, DEC is cooperating with affiliated federal agencies, the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, and the New York Power Authority to make this restoration possible.

Stocking of an individual body of water is a five year program, releasing about 1,500 fingerlings/year. One of the anticipated signals of program success will be when the fish reach maturity, and we will again see lake sturgeon spawning in these historic waters.

Inquiries about this threatened fish restoration program and other similar projects can be directed to DEC, Bureau of Fisheries in Watertown, New York. The telephone number is (315) 785-2263.