Atlantic Sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus) - Native

Biologists holding an Atlantic sturgeon from Long Island Sound.

Identification. Similar to the shortnose sturgeon, but with a narrower mouth — width less than 55 percent of width between eyes. 26-28 anal rays. Snout usually longer and more pointed in adults. May have 2 to 6 bony plates near base of anal fin.

Size. Atlantic sturgeon observed in Connecticut tend to be 2- to 4-foot juveniles. Elsewhere they are commonly 4 to 8 feet and 70 to 100 pounds. Max. reported size 14 feet.

Distribution. East Coast of North America from Labrador to northern Florida. Rarely seen in Connecticut. A closely related subspecies, the Gulf sturgeon (A. oxyrinchus desotoi), ranges from the Gulf of Mexico into South America.

Habits. Adults live in salt water and enter freshwater rivers during April-June (in the Hudson River) to spawn. Female Atlantic sturgeon move out of the rivers after spawning, whereas males will linger until fall. Young fish reside in river systems for 2 to 7 years before migrating to the ocean.

Comments. The Atlantic sturgeon was once numerous enough in the Connecticut River to support a significant fishery. It is thought that they no longer breed anywhere in Connecticut. Dam building, overfishing and pollution all likely contributed to their demise in the state. Individuals occasionally observed in Connecticut estuaries are probably strays from the nearby Hudson River, where the population is still relatively robust, although declining. The Atlantic sturgeon is listed as a State Threatened Species in Connecticut.


Text and images adapted from Jacobs, R. P., O'Donnell, E. B., and Connecticut DEEP. (2009). A Pictorial Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Connecticut. Hartford, CT. Available for purchase at the DEEP Store.