10 Facts About an Ancient Fish
Lake sturgeon are living fossils in a very modern world.

Young sturgeon raised in Milwaukee and destined for wild release.

Credit: © Bob Rashid, please obtain permission when using this image

  1. The lake sturgeon is the largest fish in the Great Lakes and is considered a living fossil because it has survived—virtually unchanged—for more than 150 million years.
  2. Female lake sturgeon are 21-39 years old before they first spawn, an event they repeat only once every three to five years.
  3. Lake sturgeon can grow to be more than 300 pounds and live to be more than 100 years old. They can reach a length of 9 feet.
  4.  Lake sturgeon were once so numerous in the Great Lakes that commercial fishermen saw them as a nuisance fish. Today, because of overfishing, pollution and a loss of habitat, lake sturgeon are struggling to survive. For example, in Lake Michigan, scientists estimate only 5,000 adult sturgeon remain, well below 1 percent of the most conservative estimates of historic numbers.
  5. In the late 1800s, caviar made from the eggs of Great Lakes sturgeon was sold to Europe, where it was relabeled and sold back to the United States as “Russian caviar.”
  6. Large, fertile female lake sturgeon can contain up to 60 pounds of eggs.
  7. During spawning season, a female lake sturgeon produces up to a half a million eggs. Only a few will survive to become adults.
  8. Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago is home to the world’s largest population of lake sturgeon.
  9. Wisconsin has been managing the Winnebago lake sturgeon population since 1903.
  10. Lake sturgeon rehabilitation efforts are underway on all of the Great Lakes.