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Gulf Sturgeon

Gulf Sturgeon
Copywrite picture of Gulf Sturgeon from

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi

CHARACTERISTICS: The Gulf subspecies of the Atlantic sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi, is distinguished from the lake sturgeon, A. fulvescens, by a narrower mouth (less than 55 percent of interorbital width in the former, compared to more than 62 percent in the latter) and paired postdorsal and preanal scutes (one row in the lake sturgeon). Other characteristics include a V-shaped snout that is frequently upturned at the tip, a small spiracle behind and slightly above the eye, and a bilobed lower lip. The back is medium to light brown, grading into cream on the belly. Fins are light tan to cream. We follow Gilbert’s (1992) recommendation of the spelling oxyrinchus as originally used by Mitchill (1815).

ADULT SIZE: 7 to 14 ft (2.1 to 4.3 m)

DISTRIBUTION: The best viable population of Gulf sturgeon in Alabama is in the Choctawhatchee River near Geneva, where we have observed more than two dozen individuals between 1991 and 1994. In 1991 and 1992, the Alabama Game and Fish Division (later renamed the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division) examined live specimens from the Fish River on the eastern side of Mobile Bay and also in the Mobile Delta.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Gulf sturgeon are anadromous, living in salt water and spawning in fresh water. From November through January, individuals reside in estuaries and near shores, where they feed on amphipods, isopods, midges, crabs, and shrimp. Upstream spawning runs usually begin in February. Our collections of males indicate April spawning in the Choctawhatchee River in Geneva County. After spawning, adults retreat to deeper pools and remain there until August or September, when they return downstream. When these fishes are in fresh water, feeding apparently ceases. Huff (1975) reports that migrating sturgeon in the Suwannee River reach sexual maturity between nine and 12 years of age. Spawning sites vary from river to river, but members of a single population probably return to the same general spawning area, much as Pacific salmon do.

REMARKS: On 30 September 1991, the Gulf sturgeon was listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is also protected under Rules and Regulations of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Vladykov described the Gulf sturgeon in 1955.

ETYMOLOGY:
Acipenser means sturgeon.
Oxyrinchus means sharp snout.
Desotoi honors Hernando de Soto.

The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin. Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division protects the Gulf sturgeon from capture or possession. Federally listed as threatened, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has more information on the Gulf sturgeon. The Federal Regsiter also has information on the Gulf sturgeon.

Note: In Alabama, it is illegal to stock or move any fish, mussel, snail or crayfish to any public water without a permit.

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