Acipenser fulvescens

Lake Sturgeon

FWS Focus


Scientific Name

Acipenser fulvescens
Common Name
lake sturgeon
FWS Category

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Identification Numbers



Characteristic category



Lake Sturgeon are benthic fish that occupy the bottom habitats of large freshwater lake and river ecosystems. As their name implies, Lake Sturgeon spend the majority of their lives in lake and coastal systems, but when they are ready to reproduce, they migrate into large rivers to lay their eggs in rocky, swift flowing parts of the river. The larval sturgeon that hatch stay in the river for a year before migrating out to lakes where they will remain until they reach maturity and migrate back to the rivers they were born for reproduction.  

In rivers, spawning lake sturgeon often lay their eggs on habitat characterized by rocky substrates, like gravel, cobble, and boulders with interstitial spaces (the area between rocks) to protect the eggs, water velocity between 0.5 – 1 meters per second, water depths ranging from 0.3 – 8 m, and water temperatures between 11-15 degrees Celcius (Harkness and Dymond 1961, Threader et al. 1998, Bruch and Binkowski 2002, LaHaye et al. 2003, Peterson et al. 2007, Chiotti et al. 2008). After the eggs incubate and the larval sturgeon hatch, they drift down river and settle into nursery habitat with different habitat characteristics than the spawning habitat. 

Larval Lake Sturgeon are often found in riverine habitats with fine sediments like sand, silt, and small gravel, slightly slower water velocities between 0.1 – 0.7 m/s, and water depths typically between 0.2 and 6 m (Kempinger 1996, Threader et al. 1998, Auer and Baker 2002, Holtgren and Auer, 2004, Benson et al. 2005, Dittman and Zollweg 2006, Friday 2006). 

Auer, N.A., Baker, E.A., 2002. Duration and drift of larval lake sturgeon in the Sturgeon River, Michigan. J.Appl. Ichthyol. 18, 557-564.

Benson, A., Sutton, T., Elliott, R., Meronek, T., 2005. Seasonal Movement Patterns and Habitat Preferences of Age-0 Lake Sturgeon in the Lower Peshtigo River, Wisconsin. Trans. Am. Fish. Soc. 134, 1400-1409.

Bruch, R., Binkowski, F., 2002. Spawning behavior of lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens). J. Appl. Ichthyol. 18, 570-579.

Chiotti, J., Holtgren, J., Auer, N., Ogren, S., 2008. Lake sturgeon spawning habitat in the Big Manistee River, Michigan. North Am. J. Fish. Manag. 28(4): 1009-1019.

Dittman, D.E., Zollweg, E.C., 2006. Assessment of Habitat Use by Experimentally Stocked Juvenile Lake Sturgeon. Technical Report. US Geological Survey, Cortland, NY.,

Harkness, W.J.K., Dymond, J.R., 1961. The lake sturgeon: the history of its fishery and problems of conservation. Fish & Wildlife Branch, Ontario Department of Lands and Forests, Toronto, Ontario. 121 pp.

Holtgren, J.M., Auer, N.A., 2004. Movement and habitat of juvenile lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) in the Sturgeon River/Portage Lake system, Michigan. J. Freshw. Ecol. 19(3), 419-432.

Kempinger, J., 1988. Spawning and early life history of Lake Sturgeon in the Lake Winnebago system, Wisconsin. Am. Fish. Soc. S 5, 110-122.

LaHaye, M., Desloges, S., Cote, C., Deer, J., Phillips, S., Giroux, B., Clermont, S., Dumont, P., 2003. Location of lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) spawning grounds in the upper part of the Lachine rapids (St. Lawrence River). Technical Report. Société de la faune et des parcs du Québec, Direction de l’aménagement de la faune de Montréal, de Laval et de la Montérégie, Longueuil. Montréal, Québec. 43 pp.

Peterson, D., Vecsei, P. Jennings, C., 2007. Ecology and biology of the lake sturgeon: a synthesis of current knowledge of a threatened North American Acipenseridae. Rev. Fish Biol. Fish. 17, 59-76.

Threader, R., Pope, R., & Schaap, P., 1998. Development of a habitat suitability index model for lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens). Technical Report H-07015.01—0012. Ontario Hydroelectric. 149 pp.


A considerable inland body of standing water.

River or Stream

A natural body of running water.


The land near a shore.

Characteristic category



Lake Sturgeon have four sensory whiskers, called barbels, in front of their mouth that help them locate food. They don't have teeth but instead, use their large, protrusible (extendable) mouth to suck up food from the bottoms of lakes and rivers. As omnivores, Lake Sturgeon have a broad diet which typically consists of macroinvertebrates like snails, crayfish, mussels and aquatic insects but may also include small fish and eggs. 



Lake Sturgeon are found throughout the St. Lawrence, Hudson Bay, Great Lakes, and Mississippi River watersheds - a broad distribution range encompassing 5 Canadian provinces and 24 states (Baril et al. 2018). 

Baril, A.M., Buszkiewicz, J.T., Biron, P.M., Phelps, Q.E. and Grant, J.W., 2018. Lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) spawning habitat: a quantitative review. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences75(6), pp.925-933.

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