Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials have captured a lake sturgeon of an unprecedented size on the Wolf River near Shawano. The fish, measuring 87.5 inches in length and weighing over 240 pounds, is believed to be the largest lake sturgeon ever caught in the United States. Experts estimate that the specimen is approximately 125 years old, which means it could be the oldest freshwater fish ever caught on record.
After being tagged by DNR fisheries crew, the fish was released back into the water to complete its spawning cycle. As part of their population research, the DNR annually tags and releases sturgeon, and the Lake Winnebago system is home to one of the most extensive lake sturgeon populations globally.
Furthermore, to assist with sturgeon restoration initiatives in other regions of Wisconsin and other states, some of the spawning fish’s eggs and milt are gathered. Data from recent years suggest that the sturgeon population of the system is on the rise, and a greater number of fish are reaching maturity.
The record female sturgeon has lived through interesting times. To put things into perspective, sturgeon biologist Ron Bruch created a timeline highlighting the major life events of the fish:
1887 – Sturgeon is hatched. Grover Cleveland is U.S. president and Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show opens in London.
1914 – The fish is 27 years old and makes first spawning run. Later that year events in Europe spark the beginning of World War I.
1915 – Wisconsin enacts a statewide closure on sturgeon harvest to protect the population.
1932 – The fish is 45 years old. The state holds the first modern spearing season on Lake Winnebago. Amelia Earhart becomes first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.
1945 – In its 58th year, the fish makes its eighth spawning run. World War II ends.
1969 – The fish is 82 years old and has lived through 38 spearing seasons on Lake Winnebago and 10 seasons on the Upriver Lakes. Neil Armstrong walks on the moon.
1990 – Milwaukee native Dan Folz retires as sturgeon biologist and is replaced by Ron Bruch. The Soviet Union breaks up.
2012 – The fish is 125 years old and while making its 25th spawning run is captured by DNR crews at the Shawano dam. Ryan Koenigs is named successor to Ron Bruch as sturgeon biologist.
And although this sturgeon is the largest lake sturgeon ever caught in the U.S., and probably the oldest fish ever caught, there are sturgeons lurking in the waters of Canada, for example, that are even much bigger. Just take a look at the giant below, captured on camera by Yves Bisson Sturgeon Co.