Tag Archives: fish rearing

Juvenile lake sturgeon raised at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin. Credit: USFWS

Sturgeon stocking success!

Juvenile lake sturgeon raised at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin. Credit: USFWS

Juvenile lake sturgeon raised at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin. Credit: USFWS

I'm Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You'll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York. USFWS photo with Bethany holding a bog turtle

I’m Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You’ll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York.

Cold weather, cloudy skies and chilling winds didn’t shake the spirit of fish enthusiasts at the Greenbelt Park Boat Launch in Ogdensburg, N.Y., last Tuesday.

The launch was packed with reporters, interested locals, several resource agencies, and 11,000 juvenile lake sturgeon ready to be released into the wild. All were present for the annual sturgeon stocking, a program led by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) with supportive funding from the State of New York and our agency’s Fish Enhancement, Mitigation, and Research Fund.

You could feel the heightened excitement as hatchery trucks from pulled into the boat launch parking lot: the end to a 1,000-mile journey from the Service’s fish hatchery in Wisconsin, where all 11,000 sturgeon were raised. Reporters were busy talking to biologists, spectators were busy snapping pictures, and the truck drivers were busy prepping the fish and the nets for the release.

The Service's Genoa National Fish Hatchery truck and NYSDEC Oneida Fish Hatchery truck. The trucks had 3 or 6 compartments that are like giant coolers with thousands of fingerlings in them. Credit: USFWS

The Service’s Genoa National Fish Hatchery truck and NYSDEC Oneida Fish Hatchery truck. The trucks had 3 or 6 compartments that are like giant coolers with thousands of fingerlings in them. Credit: USFWS

Biologists started by transferring approximately 3,000 fingerlings from the Service’s truck to the NYSDEC Chateaugay Fish Hatchery truck. One by one, biologists would scoop a large net (capable of holding 300-500 fingerlings) into the giant coolers holding hundreds of gallons of water and thousands of fish, and transfer them to a cooler on the other truck.

From here, the NYSDEC truck would travel to six other locations on three separate rivers while our truck would release 7,000 fingerlings, net by net, into the St. Lawrence River at the boat launch. Additional fish were raised at the NYSDEC Oneida Fish Hatchery in Constantia, N.Y., and were released in Cayuga Lake and the Genesee River in mid-October.

From Ogdensburg, the Genoa National Fish Hatchery truck stopped at the St. Lawrence Power Project in Massena and released the remaining 500 fingerlings below the dam.

The Service's Genoa National Fish Hatchery truck at the St. Lawrence Power Project in Massena, N.Y. Photo Credit: Tom Brooking

The Service’s Genoa National Fish Hatchery truck at the St. Lawrence Power Project in Massena, N.Y. Photo Credit: Tom Brooking

The NYSDEC hatchery truck left Ogdensburg and traveled to the Pine Ridge Campground in Constable, N.Y., where another 500 sturgeon fingerlings were released in the Salmon River.

Students from the Akwesasne Freedom School were present at the site to help with the release and receive a hands-on lesson about lake sturgeon.

Students were able to hold the fingerlings in a touch tank set up at the site, and also help biologists with weight and length measurements for several fingerlings.


After leaving the Pine Ridge Campground, the NYSDEC truck made another stop along Route 37 in Fort Covington to release an additional 500 fingerlings in the Salmon River. From there, the truck traveled to Brasher Falls and Brasher Center to release 1,000 fingerlings at 2 locations on the St. Regis River. Next, the NYSDEC hatchery truck drove to Raymondville and finally reached the end of its journey in Massena Springs to release another 1,000 fingerlings at 2 locations on the Raquette River.

One of our biologists, Scott Schlueter, releasing sturgeon in the Raquette River in Massena Springs. Credit: USFWS

One of our biologists, Scott Schlueter, releasing sturgeon in the Raquette River in Massena Springs. Credit: USFWS

The fingerlings were four months old and measured approximately 4-6 inches in length. I was amazed to see how calm the fingerlings were when handled; they would allow you to pick them up and hold them without much resistance. The intimidating sharp-looking bony scutes on their backs weren’t sharp at all, but instead provide the juveniles with great defense against predators, boosting their survivorship rate.

Sturgeon have a hard, spiny exterior, but their bony scutes along the top and sides of their skin are not as sharp as they appear. This protects them from predators as they feed on the bottom of the river. Credit: USFWS

Sturgeon have a hard, spiny exterior, but their bony scutes along the top and sides of their skin are not as sharp as they appear. This protects them from predators as they feed on the bottom of the river. Credit: USFWS

The sturgeon stocking program has proven to be extremely effective, as we are just starting to find young wild sturgeon in stocked areas, a sign that indicates successful reproduction of stocked fish in past years. With continued commitment from resource agencies in stocking efforts, we can hope to see more of this prehistoric species in New York waterways as the program continues.

From left to right: Doug Aloise (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), Don Meisner (FISHCAP), Scott Schlueter (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), and Douglas Carlson (NYSDEC). Credit: USFWS

From left to right: Doug Aloise (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), Don Meisner (FISHCAP), Scott Schlueter (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), and Douglas Carlson (NYSDEC). Credit: USFWS

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Scott Schlueter holding an adult lake sturgeon. Credit: USFWS

Stocking lake sturgeon in New York

I'm Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You'll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York. USFWS photo with Bethany holding a bog turtle

I’m Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You’ll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York.

Did you know lake sturgeon can grow up to 7 feet long, weigh 300 pounds and live to 100 years old?

This prehistoric species has been around for tens of millions of years, yet within the past century, sturgeon populations have dwindled to near extinction. You may wonder how such a large fish, with such a long life span, couldn’t survive in its native waters?

Lakes and rivers should be crowded with sturgeon, right?

Unfortunately, no.

Lake sturgeon were almost completely eradicated from New York waters by 1970 as a result of overfishing, pollution, invasive species and the disruption of spawning areas from the construction of dams.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Scott Schlueter holding an adult lake sturgeon. Credit: USFWS

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Scott Schlueter holding an adult lake sturgeon. Credit: USFWS

Sturgeon populations have, however, made a dramatic recovery, thanks to the collaboration of federal, state and private conservation organizations in managing fish stocking efforts. Since 1993, more than 65,000 juvenile lake sturgeon have been raised in fish hatcheries and released in lakes and rivers across the state. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has led this sturgeon restoration program, with help and funding from our agency.

The Region 6 DEC office in Watertown manages the sturgeon egg collection. Adult sturgeon are captured with gillnets below the St. Lawrence Power Project in Massena, N.Y., near the end of May and beginning of June. Biologists inject the fish with hormones that will promote the release of eggs and milt (fluid containing sperm from males).

Adult fish are safely returned to the river, and the fertilized eggs are sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin, where they will hatch and mature for three to four months before stocking in the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries. Some of the fertilized eggs are sent to the Oneida Fish Cultural Station in New York to hatch and mature before stocking during the end of September or mid-October.

If only restoring ancient sturgeon populations were as easy as releasing thousands of juveniles into local waterways every year. It’s surely a start, but the difficulty lies in the physiological nature of the fish. Lake sturgeon mature very slowly—so slow that it will take another 20 years before the juveniles reach sexual maturity.

Additionally, females will not breed if they are stressed, Lisa Holt, a rare fish biologist for the DEC, explained. This can be costly for the sturgeon population, especially because females will only spawn once every four years or so. If water conditions are not “just right,” female sturgeon will reabsorb their eggs, Lisa added.

These conditions make sturgeon restoration very difficult, but lately, very exciting. In 2013, the first documented wild offspring from a stocked lake sturgeon was documented in the Oswegatchie River, and is likely to become common in other stocked water bodies throughout New York. Since the initial stocking, fingerling survivorship has exceeded expectations as research biologists and fisherman have been reporting more sightings each year.

Biologist Scott Schlueter releasing juvenile lake sturgeon that were raised at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin. Credit: USFWS

Biologist Scott Schlueter releasing juvenile lake sturgeon that were raised at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin. Credit: USFWS

Stay tuned for pictures from this year’s sturgeon stocking throughout New York State, or visit our Facebook page!