New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) personnel in late October were working on a lake sturgeon population survey on sprawling 40-mile-long Cayuga Lake, one of the state’s Finger Lakes near the town of Ithaca.
During the survey they caught, tagged, and released 15 protected lake sturgeon, including a near-record size fish weighing 154-pounds. It measured 77.6-inches long, according to a report from Syracuse.com.
The heavyweight fish is nearly double the weight of the previous Cayuga Lake sturgeon DEC has documented, bettering the previous big fish weighing almost 84 pounds in 2019.
The 154-pound near Cayuga Lake record is only five pounds shy of the New York record lake sturgeon, documented in 2021 by state fisheries workers on Oneida Lake, located just northeast of Syracuse.
The IGFA all-tackle fishing record for lake sturgeon is 168-pounds, caught in 1982 from Georgian Bay, Ontario. This indicates the Cayuga Lake fish is near the top end weight that lake sturgeon can attain.
Lake sturgeon, while big, are much smaller than some other sturgeon species, such as white sturgeon, common in the western U.S. and can weigh over 450 pounds.
The Cayuga Lake fisheries work is part of an on-going population study of lake sturgeon by DEC, says state aquatic biologist Emily Zollweg-Horan. They are implanting some fish with microchips and acoustic transmitters to monitor their lake travels.
“Acoustic tags are scanned by receivers located throughout the lake and are picked up as the fish swim past, providing an understanding of where fish are moving throughout the lake,” Zollweg-Horan told Syracuse.com.
There are 42 lake sturgeon fitted with acoustic tags in Cayuga Lake. DEC estimates there are 400 fish in the lake, showing that heavy stocking of the species by the state has been successful in the recovery efforts for lake sturgeon.
Lake sturgeon were listed by the state has a threatened species in 1983, and over the years New York has stocked 300,000 of the fish in various waters to aid in their recovery.
Possession of lake sturgeon is unlawful, and there is no open fishing season for the species. Lake sturgeon accidentally caught by anglers must be released unharmed.