Just a few days ago I blogged about the necessity for anglers to have some fish identification skills, http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/blogs/2012/04/caught/ . In that post I used a true story to make my point especially concerning the identification of Nebraska’s sturgeon species. Had I known that a day or two later I would have another story to tell, I would have waited to post that particular blog post. So, now I am going to return to the subject of fish identification, specifically sturgeon identification, and tell you another story. . . .
I was sitting in my office in mid-afternoon last week when my phone rang. It was one of our conservation officers calling from the field with a fish identification question. As I said in my previous blog post, “Know What you Caught”, it can be difficult to communicate fish identification over the phone and I hate doing it. Well, our conservation officer had a cell phone and had the brilliant idea of taking a few pictures and sending them to me (you gotta love the unbelievable technology that is available to us in this age!). Within minutes I was looking at these photos.
The conservation officer called me back and I immediately told him, without a doubt, that was definitely a lake sturgeon! Lake sturgeon are listed as a threatened species in Nebraska. You can see the fish was on a stringer, so once again some mistaken angler was in possession of a threatened species that cannot legally be taken under any circumstances. Obviously, the conservation officer found them in possession of the fish, again I am sure it was an “honest” mistake, but someone could have been getting a pretty pink ticket for that honest mistake (the fish was released back into the water).
There are waters in North America where lake sturgeon populations are healthy and stable. However, in Nebraska a lake sturgeon would be even more of a rare catch than a pallid sturgeon, and that is why they are considered a threatened species in Nebraska. I have been told that the state of Missouri stocks some lake sturgeon to help their population in the Missouri River recover, and it is possible, although I do not know for sure, that lake sturgeon was one of the fish Missouri stocked.
I am sure some of you are studying the pictures trying to figure out where that fish was caught. I will tell you. That fish was caught out of Salt Creek just east of Ashland. Nobody would expect a lake sturgeon to swim up Salt Creek, but they can be found in the Missouri River and it would be a relatively short detour for them to swim into the lower Platte River and then into Salt Creek for a short distance upstream to where this fish was captured. I would speculate that recent heavy rains would have created high flows in the lower Platte and Salt Creek and that might have “triggered” a large river fish like that to swim upstream into a relatively small stream where they would never be expected to be found.
The chances of any of us catching a lake sturgeon anywhere in Nebraska would be slim and none. But, especially when fishing rivers and streams, you just never know what might show up. And that is why I again will suggest you spend some time here learning some fish identification, http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/fishing/guides/identification/search.asp . And again I will leave you with this.
Look over those photos, that lake sturgeon had all the “classic” characteristics.