, Gloucester, MA


May 25, 2013

Outdoors: Sturgeon in the Merrimack River

The fishing is really starting to heat up. Stripers, cod, haddock, cusk, flounder, sturgeon and other game fish are following the migration of the bait fish and are just stacking up both offshore and in the rivers. As we reported last week, the baitfish are returning in good numbers which seems to be stimulating the fishing.

Last week Monday the folks on the south shore jetty at the mouth of the Merrimack River were catching some small but legal stripers. One fellow hooked up and the line started to scream off his reel. A huge fish took his cut bait and headed for the ocean.

Obliging fishermen reeled in their lines and get out of his way as he tried to turn his catch. After about a half an hour he got the fish tired out and headed in to shore. What he finally saw at the end of his line, however, was not the huge striper he was expecting. Instead he had landed a four-foot long sturgeon! He had to let him go, of course, but the onlookers got quite a treat.

These monsters of the deep still run the river. There are two kinds of sturgeon: the Atlantic sturgeon and the shortnose variety (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus and Acipenser brevinostrum for you Latin fans).

The shortnose still uses the river. According to NOAA there are less than 100 adults that return each year to spawn. They go up river as far as Haverhill and spawn in the fresh water there in the rocks between the Comeau and Basilier Bridges. No one knows why they do not go upstream further to the rocks above. They are much smaller than their Atlantic cousins averaging about 3-4 feet in length and weighing in at about 50 lbs. They are freshwater amphidromous, so they will use the Merrimack River around Newburyport to forage.

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