White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) is Idaho’s largest native fish species, as well as the largest freshwater fish in North America. White sturgeon have a shark-like appearance, with about 45 rays in the dorsal fin. Their coloring ranges from gray to brownish, with white dots along the length of the fish. White sturgeon average about 7 feet in length, but the largest confirmed length is about 20 feet. Idaho’s white sturgeon typically do not migrate, although populations in coastal waters do travel between the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. Idaho has populations of white sturgeon in both the Snake River and the Kootenai River are protected, with no harvest allowed.
Traditionally, white sturgeon were an important food source for Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest, although the populations were severely damaged by the early 190os, with over fishing representing a significant problem. Sturgeon not only provide meat directly, but also provided oil and caviar.
Interesting facts about White Sturgeon:
- The largest recorded White Sturgeon was 1,800 pounds
- Legally purchased White Sturgeon caviar can cost as much as $700 an ounce
- White Sturgeon can live to be over 100 years old
- The White Sturgeon is closely related to the Asian Sturgeon, showing they evolved from a common ancestor about 46 million years ago
- Because White Sturgeon can be so large, they may have inspired many of the legendary lake monsters of the Northwest.