She said the picture was taken from a 12 foot row boat on Lake Champlain just south of where the Bouquet River enters the lake in Willsboro. The length of the fish appeared longer than the boat, Fiust said.
At one time these monster fish were quite common in the lake and could be seen in shallow water, making their way to spawning grounds along islands and major tributaries of the lake.
Mike Winslow, Staff Scientist of the Burlington-based Lake Champlain Committee, said that commercial harvesting of the huge fish for its meat and much-sought-after caviar all but killed off the species around the turn of the century.
Nevertheless, there remains a small number in the lake and today they are protected by both New York and Vermont.
I don't have population estimates for the lake, Winslow said. I know VT Fish and Wildlife did some trapping to try to get that information, but they had little success finding adults. However, despite their lack of success they did find eggs and at least one juvenile, so there is some reproduction going on.
Winslow said that in 2004, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department reported they had found naturally produced sturgeon eggs in the Winooski, Lamoille, and Missisquoi Rivers.
A larval sturgeon was also captured in Otter Creek. The results were pleasantly surprising, Winslow said, especially since attempts to find adults for study resulted in the capture of only male fish.
New York has begun a lake sturgeon stocking program to help return the prehistoric looking fish to waters it once frequented, though initial efforts are not focused on Lake Champlain.
Stocking has also been hindered by the fact that the fish mature very slowly. Sturgeon females dont begin to reproduce until at least age 14, and males around age eight. Even then, females spawn only every four to nine years.
Mature sturgeon average three to five feet in length, but specimens greater than seven feet long and over 300 pounds have been documented.