VERNON, Vt. — An endangered fish has been found in the Connecticut River between Vermont and New Hampshire and scientists are not sure how it got to where it was caught by an angler who then released it back into the river.
The endangered shortnose sturgeon, the smallest of three sturgeon species found in eastern North America, was caught in August on the New Hampshire side of the river below the Vernon dam. They can grow to be 4½-feet-(1.3 meter)-long and weigh 50 pounds (22 kilograms).
Scientists say shortnose sturgeon have been found further down the river, but the one caught this summer was the first one found above the Turners Falls dam in Massachusetts.
Unlike some other fish species, sturgeon do not jump over waterfalls and before the fish was caught in Vernon scientists thought they did not range that far north.
“We’re really not sure what it means yet,” said Julie Crocker, the endangered species coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries Services. “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.”
Vermont Public Radio reports the shortnose sturgeon has been on the endangered species list since 1967.
Scientists with the National Marine Fisheries Services have been working to improve a fish passageway around the Holyoke dam, in Holyoke, Massachusetts, about 30 miles south of Turners Falls, and a modified fishway, that includes two fish lifts, has helped fish from a number of species get above the dam.
So far this year, 85 shortnose sturgeon have been moved by the lifts.
Crocker said scientists would like to hear from other anglers who might have caught sturgeon or heard stories about them, “either historically or in more recent times.”
Information from: WVPS-FM, http://www.vpr.net