Endangered Fish Shows Up In Vernon

Oct 25, 2017

An endangered fish was hooked recently in the Connecticut River near Vernon.

National Marine Fisheries Services Endangered Species Coordinator Julie Crocker says it was the first time a shortnose sturgeon was caught upstream from the Turners Falls Dam in Massachusetts.

Crocker says there are shortnose sturgeon farther south in the river, and at this point scientists do not know how the fish got into Vermont.

"We're really not sure what it means yet," Crocker says. "It may be a sole individual who has managed to get upstream of the dam, or it could be evidence of a small remnant population that's been up there since before the dam was constructed."

Crocker says the fish was released alive back into the river.

The shortnose sturgeon has been on the endangered species list since 1967.

Sturgeon do not jump over waterfalls, like salmon do, and Crocker says before the fish was caught in Vernon scientists thought they did not range into Vermont.

"This is exciting news to hear that there are fish farther up in the river than we suspected," Crocker says. "We hope to hear from other people along the river who might have caught sturgeon in this reach before, or may have heard stories about this, either historically or in more recent times."

Scientists with the National Marine Fisheries Services have been working to improve the fish passageway on the Holyoke Dam.

This year, the station opened a modified fishway, which consists of two “lifts” that carry migrating fish up and over the dam. The fishway has already improved passage for many species, including American shad, alewife, blueback herring, and sea lamprey.

Crocker says for the first time in 20 years, shortnose sturgeon were passed upstream of the dam.

So far, 85 shortnose sturgeon have been counted at the fishway in 2017.