Beneath the land, in a world far removed from footsteps, ancient survivors inhabit our big rivers. These primitive fish have lived since the days of the dinosaurs. The lake sturgeon, a gentle giant and the paddlefish with its peculiar snout are two of the largest freshwater fish in Missouri.
I think lake sturgeon are really neat. Where in Missouri could one go and find a fish that potentially can reach 8 feet long and weigh 300 pounds? I think the other thing that really intrigues me about these fish is they're so gentle, they're almost like pets. In the spring, during the spawning migrations you can actually walk out and touch these fish and they show very very little fear of humans. That's probably one of the things that caused their downfall ultimately, but they're amazing fish they show very little fear.
In the early 1800's, lake sturgeon were common in the big rivers of Missouri. They were actually considered a nuisance by a lot of commercial fishermen because they were big they weighed 70 100 pounds and they tore up their nets that they were using to fish for other species. Some enterprising steamboat captains found out that because these fish were so oily that they could actually dry them and use them for fuel in their steamboats. About the late 1800's, people found out that lake sturgeon were actually a pretty good fish to eat. And they were soon over exploited.
In 1984, the Conservation Department began restoring the endangered lake sturgeon to the large rivers where they could reproduce naturally.
We hope to stock about another 200,000 lake sturgeon in the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. We hope that we can end up with a population of about 2 to 3 fish to the acre. Then we can take them off our endangered species list.