Lake sturgeon Acipenser fluvescens, which are now protected from harvest, are considered rare in the upper Mississippi River and little information is available on the remaining populations. Transmitters were implanted into 31 lake sturgeon from two sites in the upper Mississippi River to describe their habitats and movement. The areas surrounding the tagging sites were core areas for both groups of lake sturgeon based on the high use (about 50% of locations by group) and frequent return to these areas by many of the tagged fish. Core areas contained sites with unique hydraulic characteristics, such that depositional substrates were common yet flow was present; these areas probably provide important feeding habitat for lake sturgeon. Minimal geographical overlap in range occurred between groups, suggesting that river reaches and associated core areas were unique to groups or substocks of fish. Lake sturgeon exhibited complex movement behaviors and had ranges of 3-198 km (median, 56 km) during the study. Tagged fish moved both downstream and upstream through upper Mississippi River navigation dams. However, dams appeared to be intermittent barriers to upstream passage because upstream passage events (10 fish, 19 passages) were fewer than downstream events (13 fish, 35 passages). Extensive use of the Wisconsin River by one group of lake sturgeon tagged in the upper Mississippi River has implications regarding management of a threatened population that transcends regulatory boundaries. Our study indicates that lake sturgeon In the upper Mississippi River system share many movement and habitat use characteristics with populations in other systems. However, significant data gaps preclude development of cogent management strategies, including information on population numbers and dynamics, identification of spawning areas, relations between groups, and assessment of the effects of commercial navigation.
Additional publication details
Habitat and movement of lake sturgeon in the upper Mississippi River system, USA