Lake sturgeon, a primitive-looking fish that can exceed five feet and 100 pounds, once were common enough in Lake Champlain that they supported a small commercial fishery that harvested between 50 and 200 sturgeon annually. Harvests declined rapidly in the mid-20th Century following years of over-fishing and the damming of rivers used heavily by sturgeon for spawning, particularly the Missisquoi and Lamoille.

The state closed the sturgeon fishery in 1967, and Vermont now lists this torpedo-shaped fish as a state endangered species.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife is currently studying the lake sturgeon and developing approaches for restoration of this species. Sturgeon are being collected during their spawning runs in the Winooski and Lamoille Rivers, and similar work in the Missisquoi River is planned for the spring of 2001. These studies will give Department biologists information about the abundance of spawners and their age distribution. In addition, small tissue samples will allow for genetics analysis, so biologists can determine whether sufficient genetic diversity exists within the population for restoration to go forward.

The Department is also working to protect and restore sturgeon habitat through its active participation in hydropower dam relicensing proceedings. The Department is currently assessing what effect removal of the Peterson Dam on the Lamoille River would have on sturgeon restoration efforts.

With its skeleton of cartilage and a shark-like tail, the sturgeon's appearance probably has not changed much since it first evolved 65 million years ago during the Cretaceous period. That these fish can sometimes live for more than 150 years only makes them more mysterious. Whether they will still be in Lake Champlain for our grandchildren to enjoy is uncertain at this time.