Releasing Lake sturgeon in the Maumee River
The Toledo Zoo is the proud home of Ohio’s first streamside rearing facility for recovery of Lake sturgeon. This facility was funded through USFWS grant and constructed on Zoo-owned property near the Maumee River to head-start Lake sturgeon. We expect to rear thousands of Lake sturgeon from eggs, collected in U.S. and Canadian waters, until the fish are approximately four months old, or 6”-7”. At that point, the sturgeon will be released into the Maumee River and their population monitored by fisheries biologists with the Ohio Division of Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The goal is to rear the fish in the Maumee River water from a young age and capitalize on the homing ability of the species in hopes that they will return to the waterway to spawn at adulthood in approximately 20 years. As of early 2023, the Zoo and its partners have released around 12,000 Lake sturgeon into the Maumee River.
Each year, our conservation staff individually implant 1,500 Lake sturgeon with PIT tags that are a permanent form of identification. When the fish are recaptured, their tag numbers, length, and weight are recorded. So far, 12 Lake sturgeon have been recaptured from our 2018 – 2019 releases. The longest fish grew ~22” in three years!
In the 1800's, Lake sturgeon were abundant in the Maumee River, however, demand for caviar along with commercial over fishing caused the population to rapidly decline. Ohio does not currently have a known reproducing Lake sturgeon population.