The Sturgeon Are Coming, The Sturgeon Are Coming!

Endangered fish to be released in downtown Chattanooga

Friday, May 7, 2010 - by Richard Simms
<i>The 25 endangered lake sturgeon to be released in downtown Chattanooga will be at least two feet long and have an excellent chance of survival. They will each be tagged with an internal microchip so, if ever recovered, biologists will know exactly when and where they were released.</i
The 25 endangered lake sturgeon to be released in downtown Chattanooga will be at least two feet long and have an excellent chance of survival. They will each be tagged with an internal microchip so, if ever recovered, biologists will know exactly when and where they were released.
- photo by TWRA

Many years ago, long before we knew how to spell TVA, huge lake sturgeon roamed the Tennessee River at will. This prehistoric species lived throughout eastern North America, as far south as the Tennessee River in Alabama. The fish grow to well over five feet long, weighing over a hundred pounds. Due to overfishing and habitat destruction and alteration (primarily TVA dams), lake sturgeon have been reduced to less than 1% of their original numbers, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The last known naturally-occurring lake sturgeon documented by TWRA in the Tennessee River Basin was seen in Fort Loudon Reservoir in 1960. The lake sturgeon is now listed as endangered within Tennessee waters.

TWRA has committed to try and re-establish lake sturgeon in the Tennessee River system, and the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga is at the heart of that effort. The restoration begins with the collection of sturgeon eggs provided by northern states. The eggs are then hatched and distributed as fry to three other hatcheries to be grown out to a minimum of 5 inches before they are released. The Tennessee Aquarium Research Institute is one of those hatcheries and in some cases, the Aquarium's research team can grow larger sturgeon. These larger fish have a significantly higher chances of survival when released into the wild.

The Tennessee Aquarium has received relatively little exposure here at home for their efforts however. That's because to date, the young sturgeon they raise have been released far away from Chattanooga, in the French Broad River, a tributary to the Tennessee River near Knoxville. That's where biologists have determined the young lake sturgeon have a much better chance to survive and reproduce.

Next week however, the Aquarium staff and TWRA biologists will be joined by students from Calvin Donaldson Environmental Science Academy for a special sturgeon release in Chattanooga.

It happens Thursday at 11 am, rain or shine, beneath the Walnut St. Bridge at Coolidge Park. The students will help biologists tag 25 lake sturgeon, 2 - 3 feet long, and then release them into the Tennessee River.

Aquarium spokesperson Thom Benson says this release is a one-time effort in Chattanooga, primarily to give youngsters the chance to learn about a unique environmental resource ... and to educate the public about the Aquarium's efforts.

"The Aquarium and TWRA recognize the value of media coverage," said Benson. "It’s a great program and keeping it visible ultimately helps fund the future success of this, and other conservation programs. I honestly believe that if people can feel a connection to nature, they’re going to be more passionate about helping protect and preserve it. The Calvin Donaldson students will become big advocates for the natural world. I hope their enthusiasm will rub off on others."

A release of a mere 25 sturgeon into the Tennessee River is really a drop in the bucket. But the larger-sized, hardy fish have an excellent chance of survival. It doesn't mean they will stay in the immediate area however. Benson said that some of sturgeon released in the French Broad, north of Knoxville, have been recovered as far south as North Alabama.

TVA dams, which generally prevent fishes free movement up and down the river, have been cited as one reason for the decline of sturgeon and some other species. Biologists believe however that if enough sturgeon can be restored to the river system, they can sustain a self-perpetuating population. To date a total of 90,000 sturgeon fingerlings have been released into the Tennessee and Cumberland River systems.

Of course a release of 2 - 3 foot sturgeon in downtown Chattanooga means there is at least some chance that a fisherman will catch one.

IT IS ILLEGAL TO KEEP A STURGEON!

They are considered an endangered species in Tennessee and captured sturgeon must be immediately released. Mere possession is against the law.

However, if you observe a sturgeon, even a dead one, please contact TWRA. Please make note of exactly where and when the fish was caught, its approximate size, and how it was caught. TWRA provides a Lake Sturgeon Certificate to anglers who have caught and released lake sturgeon. You can contact TWRA in Nashville at (615) 781-6575 or at 1-800-262-6704.

Lake Stugeon are identified by the sharp, bony plates along their backs and sides, a shark-like tail, a sucker-like mouth, and four barbels or "whiskers" just in front of their mouths. Like sharks, sturgeon don't have bony support and their internal organs can be damaged when flopping around out of water.

Benson says in one case when TWRA biologists were questioning a fisherman to confirm that he had indeed caught a lake sturgeon, the man told them he knew it was a sturgeon "Because I touched one at the Tennessee Aquarium.”


8th Annual Maury County Youth Small Game And Predator Hunt Scheduled For Feb. 11

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will be one of the sponsors for the eighth annual Maury County Youth Small Game and Predator Hunt to be held Feb. 11. The free event is for youth from ages 9-15 who must have a TWRA Hunter Education certification by the hunt date and have all the appropriate licenses permits. Hunters must also provide their own firearm and ammunition.   ... (click for more)

7th Annual Daniel Greer Memorial Youth Waterfowl Hunt Set For Feb. 11 In Cheatham County

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is among the partners to host the Seventh Annual Daniel Greer Memorial Youth Waterfowl Hunt. The event will be held Saturday, Feb. 11 at Cheatham Lake Wildlife Management Area. The event is held in honor of U.S. Marine Corporal Daniel Greer who lost his life in August 2010 while serving in southern Afghanistan. He was an Ashland City firefighter ... (click for more)

School Board Votes To Issue RFPs For Private School Bus Service; Allows Independent Drivers To Add 20 Routes

The Hamilton County School Board voted unanimously to issue a Request-for-Proposals (RFP) to private bus companies at a special-called session early  Saturday  afternoon.   The vote came at the end of a two-day strategy session where the school board has confronted a list of challenges but the busing question, spurred by the tragic bus wreck in November ... (click for more)

3 People Shot Early Saturday Morning On East 3rd Street

Three people were shot on East 3rd Street early Saturday morning. They were identified as Countess Clemons, 24, Kezia Jackson, 23, and Dutchess Lykes, 26.   The Chattanooga Police Department responded at 2:40 a.m. to a person(s) shot call at a local hospital. All three victims were transported to the hospital via a personally-owned vehicle.   All three ... (click for more)

A Light Rain Began To Fall - And Response (3)

Around noon Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the most powerful nation on Earth after a long and sometimes bitter campaign where 17 GOP candidates of his own party and two of the opposing party competed for the honor.   Thousands rejoiced in the Washington D.C. streets while policemen who had come along with national guardsmen pushed ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Jumoke’s Thuggery Ends

Jumoke Johnson, the most notorious criminal in Chattanooga’s recent history, was killed by a rain of bullets in the 2100 block of East 12 th Street at little after 8 o’clock Friday night and for the many of us who have kept up with the 23-year-old, you wonder how he ever lasted this long. He was aptly proclaimed as the “most dangerous man” to ever have been sentenced in Chattanooga’s ... (click for more)