Sturgeons are one of the few prehistoric types of fish that still swims in our waters to this day. The name “Sturgeon” is actually a generalized term that makes up over 25 different species of fish within the Acipenseridae family. With family roots dating back to the Triassic period, roughly 240 million years ago, this fish is almost like a swimming dinosaur!
The Sturgeon fish is often compared to a shark because of its distinctive characteristics, such as its heterocercal caudal fin. This means that the vertebrae of the fish actually extends longer into the upper part of the tail. This look in common in most sharks and is a popular characteristic in order to help identify different types of fish. Similar to many species of shark, some Sturgeons can grow to large sizes of up to 12 feet in length.
When they are young, they experience their fastest pace of growing, then they continue at a slower pace in the years after. They are certainly a long-lived fish that matures later in their life. They can live between a range of 50 to 60 years on average. However, female Strugeons tend to have babies later in their life, usually after the age of 15.
These fish typically spawn in freshwater as they feed in waters loaded with nutrients. The typically hunt and feed in the brackish parts of the bottom. Interesting enough, it is almost impossible to locate one of these fish in water that is south of the equator. They can be found in the rivers around Russia and Ukraine as well as the fresh waters of North America. In the United States, one of the more popular regions to find the Sturgeon is in the state of Washington.
With a fish that carries such a long history, most people have actually never heard of this fish. However, many questions are asked about how this fish fits into our ecosystem today and in the everyday life of fishermen.
Can You Eat a Sturgeon Fish?
Yes, the Sturgeon can be eaten. Most prefer to smoke the fish but it actually has a delicious taste when deep fried. The texture and firmness can be compared to that of a lobster or crab. The fish produces a fat, flaky white meat that goes well with some butter. Some say that the taste resembles the flavor of most freshwater fish. In some cases for the larger Sturgeons, the meat can be filleted as steaks for throwing on a grill.
How Do You Fillet a Sturgeon Fish?
Similar to most fish, it is recommend to bleed out the Sturgeon as soon as you decide that you will be keeping the fish. if you don’t bleed the fish, the blood ends up sitting within the white meat of the fish and causes a more fishy taste. You can bleed out the fish by cutting the gills after the fish is dead. Once this step is complete, store the fish on ice prior to filleting. This will ensure that the fish stays fresh.
When cutting the fish, first remove the tail. A strong knife is needed for this task given the thicker skin that this fish has. Next, you will want to remove the head and guts (cut behind the gills). Then, you will need to cut away both the top and lateral scutes of the fish (be sure to do away from your body). These scutes are present on both sides of the fish. Most Sturgeons have 5 rows of these bony scutes throughout their body. Removing the scutes will make the next steps a lot easier.
Next, you will want to remove any remaining fins. This is the last step before you cut open the fish to start filleting. Start this process by making a slight incision in the belly of the fish. To maximize the size of your fillets, you will want to cut as close to the backbone as possible. Starting with one side of the fish at a time, remove the ribs and backbone. After this is complete, you will be able to start cutting the fillets to your preferred size. Finally, once you have your fillets, remove the blood line from the fish that is dark red in color.
The Sturgeon is actually very unique because given the age of the fish, the fibers of the meat cause the muscle to tense up. Rather that eating right away (like most fish), it is actually recommended to wait 24-48 before cooking your fillets. You would be surprised how much of a difference this makes in making the fish taste better!
What Bait is the Best for Sturgeon Fish?
Based on our experience, the best bait for Sturgeon Fish is salmon eggs. Sturgeon primarily feed on food that can be found at the bottom of the water. Given their preference for scraps, bait such as crawfish, clams, carcasses or other small bait fish would also help attract the bite of a Sturgeon on your fishing line.
How Much Does a Pound of Sturgeon Cost at the Fish Market?
While it can be rare to find the Sturgeon is most fish markets, some do carry it from time to time. Usually the fillets cost around $20/pound. Certainly an expensive price for a unique fish that’s normally not a popular choice for fish eaters. Their caviar is much more to be desired, costing upwards of $150-250 per ounce!
How Many Sturgeons Can You Catch at a time?
The regulation for this rule depends on the state. For freshwater fishing in California, the limit is usually three fish per year. This helps avoid the possibility of being overfished and preserves the population. However, always check to see the most updated fishing laws for your state. Most states have a fishing website resource page that updates this data seasonly or yearly.
The Sturgeon is a very interesting fish that continues to thrive in the freshwaters of the Northern Hemisphere. Unfortunately, these fish have been negatively impacted by the change of their natural habitat. As a result, most species of Sturgeon are either threatened or endangered. This could eventually lead to extinction. We will continue to see local regulation emphasis more efforts to help preserve the life of this fish. Recreationally, they are certainly a fun fish to catch!