Lake sturgeon are nearshore fish that live at water depths of 15-30 feet. They feed along lake bottoms, eating a variety of small animals including snails, crustaceans, aquatic insects, mussels, and small fish. Most lake sturgeon caught today weigh between 30-100 pounds and grow to 3-6 feet in length.

There are twenty-seven species of sturgeon worldwide, eight of which are found in North America. Three species, including the lake sturgeon, spend their entire lives in freshwater.

According to fossil records, lake sturgeon have been on Earth for at least one hundred fifty million years and their biology has remained essentially unchanged. Several of their features harken back to the early evolution of fish. Their skeletons are made of cartilage and their backbones are notochords, a precursor to the spine of most fish caught for food. Sturgeon’s tail fins are shark-like in appearance and their bodies are covered in five rows of pinched cartilage called scutes.

Lake sturgeon are native to the Mississippi, Great Lakes, and Hudson Bay watersheds. Sixteen U.S. states once had significant populations of lake sturgeon: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Adapted from People of the Sturgeon, 2008.

What you can do here

School or Group ToursView Exhibits

Riveredge Nature Center (Click to show on map)
Riveredge is a nature center wrapped around the Milwaukee River with a focus on ecological education.
Sturgeon Point Lighthouse (Click to show on map) Info
Grand Rapids Public Museum (Click to show on map)
Grand Rapids Public Museum hosts Grand Fish, Grand River fisheries education exhibit.
Black Lake Sturgeon Shivaree (Click to show on map)
Annual winter festival centered around Lake Sturgeon fishery on Black Lake.
Black Lake Sturgeon Stream Side Research and Rearing Facility (Click to show on map) Info
Blue Water Sturgeon Festival (Click to show on map) Info
More Information
Students take action all around Michigan to rehabilitate an endangered species and learn a lot while doing so.
Facility Brochure, Sturgeon Science and Research
Lake Sturgeon Educational Website
Video documentary exploring the ecology and history of the Lake Sturgeon in the Great Lakes region.
Interviews of community activists, sturgeon spearing enthusiasts, spear and decoy craftsmen, and scientific researchers associated with the Lake Winnebago sturgeon population.
A book documenting ecological history and cultures surrounding Lake Sturgeon in Wisconsin's Lake Winnebago region.
Short video about history, ecology, and conservation of Lake Sturgeon in Canada.
A history of the Black Lake Sturgeon Research and Rearing Facility in Onaway, Mich.
A book about ecology, issues, and management of the Lake Sturgeon.