A remarkable encounter unfolded in the waters of Lake of the Ozarks when angler Troy Staggs found himself engaged in a grueling 47-minute battle with an incredibly rare giant fish, the lake sturgeon.
The Missouri Department of Conservation shared the story, stating that Staggs eventually reeled in the fish, which measured 4.6 feet in length and weighed approximately 50 to 55 pounds. In an act of conservation and respect for this endangered species, Staggs decided to release the gentle giant back into the lake.
Sturgeon, including the lake sturgeon, are among the most endangered species on Earth. With 23 out of the 27 different sturgeon species classified as critically endangered by the World Wildlife Fund, their survival is threatened by overfishing, habitat loss, and the illegal caviar trade.
These ancient fish, which have existed for millions of years and even predate dinosaurs, face the risk of extinction.
Lake sturgeon are the second-largest fish found in Missouri and are known to be the state’s longest-lived animals, with some individuals living over 100 years.
Certain lake sturgeon in Missouri can reach lengths of up to 8 feet, while their relative, the white sturgeon, holds the title for the largest freshwater fish in North America, with some specimens measuring up to 20 feet.
Staggs expressed that his encounter with the lake sturgeon was an unforgettable moment. Despite the immense challenge of catching the fish and the absence of hooks during the battle, he was glad to witness the fish swim away undisturbed, adding to the awe-inspiring experience.
In Missouri, lake sturgeon are protected under the law, making it illegal to harm or kill them. Anglers who encounter these giants must release them immediately after capture.
The Department of Conservation encourages people to report any sturgeon sightings to aid in tracking and monitoring their population.
This particular lake sturgeon caught by Staggs is the sixth one documented in the river since 2016, highlighting the ongoing efforts of the Missouri Department of Conservation to stock and restore the endangered species in the state’s waters.
Despite the name, lake sturgeon typically inhabit larger rivers rather than lakes. They prefer bodies of water with firmer bottoms composed of gravel, rock, and sand.
As adults, they migrate into tributary rivers for breeding, making them more visible in shallower waters.
Troy Staggs’ encounter with the rare giant fish serves as a testament to the significance of conservation efforts and responsible angling practices.
By releasing the lake sturgeon back into its natural habitat, Staggs contributed to the ongoing preservation of this majestic species, ensuring that future generations may also have the opportunity to witness the beauty and resilience of these remarkable creatures.