Maturation and reproduction of shovelnose sturgeon in the middle mississippi river


Shovelnose sturgeon Scaphirhynchus platorynchus in the middle Mississippi River provide one of the last commercially viable sturgeon fisheries in the world, yet their maturation and reproduction have not been linked. During 2005 and 2006, we sampled adult and age-0 shovelnose sturgeon to link age at maturation, the timing and periodicity of spawning, age-0 sturgeon production, and the resulting age- 0 growth rates. Age at maturity was later than previous estimates, the minimum age of first maturation being 8 years for males and 9 years for females. Total egg count was slightly lower than previously reported (mean=29,573 per female; SE = 2,472). Males and females typically spawned every 2 and 3 years, respectively. Peaks in mature fish coincided with rising river stages and water temperatures at which shovelnose sturgeon probably spawn. Peaks in spent adults followed. Age-0 shovelnose sturgeon occurred during June and July 2005 and May and June 2006, confirming successful spawning. Age-0 sturgeon grew between 0.69 and 1.69 mm total length/d; four distinct weekly cohorts occurred each year. During fall 2006, females contained ripe eggs, males were milting, and a single age-0 sturgeon (total length = 55 mm) was captured, suggesting that shovelnose sturgeon spawn during fall as well as spring. Management must consider the protracted nature of spawning within seasons as well as differences in spawning activity between seasons.

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North American Journal of Fisheries Management