The Atlantic sturgeon is the largest freshwater fish native to the Mid Atlantic region. Along the Atlantic Seaboard, several stocks of this living fossil are listed as endangered or threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with no fishing allowed for the species.
Adult sturgeon occasionally reach 200 pounds in weight and six to eight feet in length. In Canada, individuals up to 14 feet long and 800 pounds have been recorded. Atlantic sturgeon are thought to reach ages of 60 years or more.
The Atlantic sturgeon can be distinguished from other sturgeon species by its long, narrow snout, relatively small mouth, and four barbels. Adults have olive green to blue-black back and upper bodies, with white undersides. Atlantic sturgeon sometimes bask at the water’s surface and occasionally make spectacular leaps.
Like several other fish, Atlantic sturgeon lead anadromous lifestyles. During spawning season adult sturgeon migrate up major coastal rivers, occasionally traveling as much as 900 miles or more to spawn.
A number of Mid Atlantic rivers contained Atlantic sturgeon spawning areas including the Hudson, Delaware, James, Cape Fear, and others. After spending up to the seven years in freshwater rivers, Atlantic sturgeon migrate out to sea. Very little is known about their life at sea.