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Lake Sturgeon Management in New York

Lake sturgeon over a gravel bed.

Lake sturgeon are long lived, large bodied, late to sexually mature, and spawn only intermittently. These characteristics make this species especially vulnerable to overfishing, and slow to recover from the severe declines they experienced in the past. In New York State, overfishing and habitat degradation led to severe declines in many of the state's lake sturgeon spawning populations, resulting in listing as a state threatened species in 1983.

Management Efforts

While much research has been conducted on lake sturgeon in the past 20 years, we still lack sufficient knowledge of specific spawning locations for some populations, as well as population abundances and age structure for many of the populations. To change the New York State listed status of this species from Threatened to Special Concern, or to remove it from the list altogether, there needs to be sufficient self-sustaining populations in the state to warrant that change. Defining these populations and an accompanying target number for recovery proved challenging since lake sturgeon occupy wide ranging and variable habitats across New York. In many cases, smaller spawning aggregations may be part of a larger metapopulation. To accommodate these variances, we defined seven Management Units across New York as a descriptor of these metapopulations.

A stocking program by DEC and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has been in place since 1993 to achieve self-sustaining populations. Lake sturgeon have been re-established across the state and current stocking is seeking to enhance the genetic diversity of the stocked populations.

Naturally recovering populations are also being monitored in several Great Lakes locations. Spawning habitat enhancement is taking place at several locations in the St. Lawrence River, and the Seneca River.

NYSDEC, USFWS, US Geological Survey (USGS), Cornell University, Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe (SRMT), many local governments, non-governmental organizations, and utilities are working towards creating self-sustaining populations of sturgeon. Contributions from all will be necessary to accomplish recovery of this species.

Recovery Plan

Lake Sturgeon Recovery Plan, 2018-2024 (PDF)
This plan divides the range of lake sturgeon across the state into seven Management Units. The overall recovery goal for this species in New York is to 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. Self-sustaining populations of lake sturgeon are defined in this plan as having an estimate of at least 750 spawning adults across all spawning aggregations within a Management Unit and detection of at least three years of wild reproduction in a five-year period.

Status Reports

Lake Sturgeon Population Status Assessment Report (2021) (PDF)
We conclude that four of the seven Management Units have achieved both the adult population and recruitment goals. The remaining three Management Units show promising signs of population improvement and will continue to be monitored through 2024. Vermont Department of Natural Resources staff and partners continue to collect data in the Lake Champlain Management Unit..

Reports by Water

For reports of lake sturgeon surveys conducted on individual waters, visit the appropriate Regional Fisheries Management Reports webpage.

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