FWC News Release

Contact: Karen Parker (386) 758-0525

The sturgeon are jumping again in the Suwannee River. They have made their annual migration from the Gulf of Mexico back to the river to spawn.

These leaping fish can put boaters at risk for injury when the two collide. In an ongoing public-awareness campaign, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is now distributing “Go Slow in the Suwannee River” decals that boaters can stick on their vessels.

“We recommend boaters reduce their speed to reduce the risk of impact and to give people more time to react if they do encounter a jumping sturgeon,” said Maj. Bruce Hamlin, regional commander for FWC’s North Central Region, based in Lake City.

One woman was injured last month when a sturgeon knocked her from her personal watercraft and into the Suwannee River. Eight people were injured by direct sturgeon collisions during 2006. Two other boaters suffered injuries when they swerved to avoid a jumping sturgeon and hit a bridge support in the river.

“We want people to be aware that sturgeon are back, and the risk of injury to boaters does exist,” Hamlin said. “As the weather warms up and more people get out on the river, the risk of injury from colliding with the sturgeon increases.”

Last year, FWC officials began working on the public-awareness campaign to alert boaters to the risks of jumping sturgeon.

“We posted signs along the Suwannee at each boat ramp, explaining the risk of impacts with these fish,” Hamlin said. We have checked each boat ramp on the Suwannee this month and are currently replacing the missing signs.”

FWC officers patrolling the Suwannee will have the new decals to hand out to boaters. The decals are also available at the FWC’s North Central Regional Office in Lake City.

Biologists estimate the annual sturgeon population in the Suwannee River at between 2,250 and 3,000 fish, averaging about 40 pounds each. Adult fish spend eight to nine months each year in the river spawning and three to four of the coolest months in Gulf waters. Adult sturgeon tend to congregate in deeper waters with moderate currents and sand and rocky bottoms.

Biologists are unsure why sturgeon jump.

Gulf sturgeon can grow to 8 feet in length and weigh up to 200 pounds. Sturgeon are a protected species and may not be harvested.

To report sturgeon collisions, call 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).