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First time in 100 years: Natural lake sturgeon seen spawning along Red River Basin

Lake sturgeon were captured on video spawning along the Red River Basin in a Facebook post shared by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday, May 24. The agency stated the event is the first verified natural spawning to occur with the species in more than 100 years.

Lake Sturgeon naturally spawn along the Red River Basin on May 24, 2022. The species was nearly fished to extinction between 1880 and 1930 and this natural event is the first verified spawning in nearly 100 years, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Lake Sturgeon naturally spawn along the Red River Basin on May 24, 2022. The species was nearly fished to extinction between 1880 and 1930 and this natural event is the first verified spawning in nearly 100 years, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Screenshot / MN DNR / Facebook
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DETROIT LAKES — Lake sturgeon showed promising signs of a species rebounding as a natural spawning event along the Red River Basin was captured on video and posted on Facebook by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday, May 24.

According to the agency, the event is the first verified natural spawning of lake sturgeon in the area in more than 100 years, due to over-fishing, habitat fragmentation from dam construction and declines in habitat quality.

Female lake sturgeon mature between 20 and 25 years and will reproduce once every 4-6 years, according to the DNR. Male lake sturgeon reach their maturity between 8 and 17 years and spawn every 2-3 years.

In 1997, the state agency teamed up with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the White Earth Nation, Red Lake DNR, Rainy River First Nations, North Dakota Game and Fish Department and other Canadian wildlife agencies to start a lake sturgeon reintroduction program .

"Please be respectful as lake sturgeon complete a critical step in their recovery," the post states. "It is unlawful to target or disturb spawning lake sturgeon."

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A Minnesota DNR researcher releases a sturgeon into the St. Louis River.
Contributed / Minnesota DNR

The agency also noted that the Red River Basin lake sturgeon catch-and-release season is closed between April 15 and June 15 to protect the spawning of the fish and help the species recover.

According to official state angling records, the largest lake sturgeon was caught in the Kettle River, in Carlton County, and measured 70 inches, with 26.5 inches in girth, and weighed 94 pounds, 4 ounces. In the state's historical record, in 1903, a lake sturgeon was caught that was 180 inches long and weighed 400 pounds.

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But don't worry about getting bit: Sturgeons don't have teeth. With the help of a suction-like mouth, they feed peacefully on macro-invertebrates, freshwater mussels, snails, crustaceans and small fish.

Lake sturgeon have a typical maximum life span of 55 years for males, and may get to more than 150 years old for females, according to a Minnesota DNR species fact sheet .

If anyone observes lake sturgeon spawning in the Red River, or any or its tributaries, they should notify the Minnesota DNR at 218-846-8290, so the agency can keep track of their continued recovery.

Red River basin

More information on lake sturgeon can be found on the DNR website .

Sturgeon
The spines on the back of a lake sturgeon are displayed.
Detroit Lakes Tribune file photo

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