FWS Focus


Scientific Name

Acipenser fulvescens
Common Name
lake sturgeon
FWS Category

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Identification Numbers



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. 

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). 


The land near a shore.


A considerable inland body of standing water.

River or Stream

A natural body of running water.



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). 

Launch Interactive Map


Explore the information available for this taxon's timeline. You can select an event on the timeline to view more information, or cycle through the content available in the carousel below.

6 Items