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Fishes of North Dakota

Sturgeon Family

Sturgeon Family

Sturgeons are primitive fish with a cartilaginous skeleton, shovel-like snout, four barbels under the snout in front of a toothless mouth, long shark-like tail, and bony plates or scales on the body. They are found in the Missouri River system.

Shovelnose Sturgeon

The shovelnose sturgeon, which seldom exceeds a weight of five pounds, is our most abundant sturgeon. It can be recognized by scales on its belly, short snout, and by its barbels. The two center barbels are almost as long as the outside barbels. The four barbels are located in a straight line in front of the mouth. Pallid sturgeon are presently the largest sturgeon in North Dakota, reaching weights up to 80 pounds. It has been on a decline in the Missouri River system probably due to the habitat changes caused by the construction of large dams. Law now requires that sturgeon over 36 inches in length must be released. Pallid sturgeon lack scales on the belly. The two center barbels are only about half as long and are located slightly in front of the outside barbels. The lake sturgeon, once found in the Red River system is probably extinct in North Dakota. In 1898, a 106 pound lake sturgeon was taken in the Pembina River which our limited records show to be the largest sturgeon ever taken in the State.
JPG -- Picture of a Shovelnose Sturgeon.

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