Shortnose Sturgeon (Acipenserbrevirostrum) - Native

Side and bottom view of a shortnose sturgeon.

Side and bottom view of a 30-inch Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon.

Identification. Similar to Atlantic sturgeon, but with a wider mouth — width greater than 60 percent of width between eyes. 22 anal rays. Snout usually shorter and blunter in adults. Has no bony plates near base of anal fin.

Close-up of a shortnose sturgeon head.

Close-up of a shortnose sturgeon head.

Size. Commonly around 3 feet. Conn. max. observed size 4.2 feet, 34 pounds. Max. reported size 4.5 feet.

Distribution. Found along the Eastern Seaboard from New Brunswick to northern Florida. The only self-sustaining population in the state is in the Connecticut River. Strays from Hudson or Connecticut River stocks have occasionally been found in the Housatonic and Thames River estuaries. There appear to be two sub-populations in the Connecticut River. One exists above the Holyoke Dam in Massachusetts and ranges as far north as Turners Falls Dam in Massachusetts. The other population ranges from beneath the Holyoke Dam to the estuary in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. To what extent these two sub-populations mix is unclear. 

Shortnose sturgeon distribution map.

All maps created in 2009. See CT DEEP Fish Community Data for updated distributions.

Habits. Prefer deeper water of larger rivers, estuaries and bays. Although anadromous elsewhere within their range, Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon apparently remain within the river for most of their lives, although some occasionally enter Long Island Sound. Shortnose sturgeon spend most of the late summer through winter and early spring in more northern areas of the river. They spawn during April-May. Soon after spawning, most fish make a rapid migration to the estuary between Haddam and Old Saybrook, where they remain until June or July. Shortnose sturgeon are bottom-dwelling fish that are only occasionally caught by anglers.

Comments. The shortnose sturgeon is both a State and Federal Endangered Species. Populations have declined throughout their range primarily due to dam building. Although the Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon population is small (estimated at fewer than 1,600 individuals), it appears relatively stable and may have increased over the past 30 years. Sturgeons are very long-lived (max. age over 60 years), slow-growing fishes, and depleted populations are slow to recover.

Shortnose sturgeon mouth.

The shortnose sturgeon mouth is wider relative to the width of its head than that of the Atlantic sturgeon.


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.