FWC News Release

Contact: Karen Parker (386) 758-0525

A jumping sturgeon injured a 6-year-old girl Sunday while she was riding in a boat on the Suwannee River near the Yellow Jacket boat ramp.

Taylor Lane Owen, 6, of Old Town, was a passenger in a 20-foot Proline vessel, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officials.

Taylor was riding with her mother, Wendy Gordon, 31; her father, Jack Gordon, 48; and her brother, Justin Gordon, 2; all from Old Town, and her aunt, Kelly Claflin, 20, of Williston.

The boat was just north of the Yellow Jacket boat ramp, approximately 9 miles west of Chiefland, FWC officials said. The vessel, operated by Jack Gordon, was traveling at about 20 miles per hour.

Claflin was sitting on the left side of the boat between the bow and the console, behind Taylor, who was on a folding chair on the bow of the vessel. A 3-foot sturgeon jumped out of the river, striking Taylor and Clafin. Taylor suffered a leg fracture and Clafin sustained bruises and cuts.

Taylor was transported to Shands Hospital in Gainesville by emergency medical services personnel.

The sturgeon jumped back into the water.

“This is the third confirmed sturgeon strike of 2007,” said Maj. Bruce Hamlin, regional commander for FWC’s North Central Region, based in Lake City. “Four people have been injured. That’s four too many.”

The major went on to say the FWC is putting increased emphasis on the public awareness campaign about the sturgeon in the Suwannee.

“We have been actively engaging the public on the dangers of these jumping sturgeon for more than a year. We had 10 people injured last year, and we’ve had four people injured this year. FWC has placed warning signs at all the boat ramps along the river, and we are distributing decals, warning boaters of the jumping sturgeon and to go slow while boating on the Suwannee,” Hamlin said.

“However, we are looking to do more. We plan to put new signs on the river at boat docks and businesses so the boating public can see the signs while they’re on the water,” Hamlin said. “We’re interested in talking with homeowners on the Suwannee River who would be willing to place a sturgeon warning sign on their docks.

“We are also looking for suggestions from the public as to how we can make this campaign even more effective. If anyone has an idea how we can get the word out to those folks recreating on the Suwannee River, we’d like to hear it,” Hamlin said.

The public can send in ideas via e-mail to Karen.Parker@MyFWC.com or to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 3377 E. U.S. Hwy. 90, Lake City, FL 32055. Folks with ideas also can call the FWC regional office at (386) 758-0525.