July 28, 2007

7-Foot Sturgeon Washes Up on Black Lake Shore

By Chester Allen, The Olympian, Olympia, Wash.

Jul. 28--A 7-foot-long white sturgeon weighing more than 300 pounds washed ashore at Black Lake on Thursday, but fish biologists weren't surprised.

"It most likely swam up the Chehalis River to the Black River and into the lake -- maybe 100 years ago," said Hal Michael, state Department of Fish and Wildlife district fish biologist.

At one time, Black River was the only river that drained Black Lake, so it had much higher flows than now, Michael said.

The sturgeon could have made the journey from the Chehalis River -- which has lots of sturgeon -- during high water.

Or the fish could have arrived in Black Lake decades ago -- when it was still small. Sturgeon live about 100 years, and they spend their lives feeding right on the bottom.

"Bucket biologists" -- people who illegally introduce fish into lakes where they are not native -- could have hauled in the fish decades ago, but it's more likely that it made it into Black Lake all by itself, Michael said.

Anglers see salmon in Black Lake from time to time, and those fish -- and the sturgeon -- are a reminder that Black Lake is still connected to saltwater, Michael said.

A 10-foot-long sturgeon showed up in Lake Washington near Seattle about 25 years ago, Michael said.

Sturgeon -- an ancient, long-lived fish -- can live in freshwater or saltwater, and the fish will use saltwater as a highway to travel to different rivers, Michael said.

Many Washington rivers that flow into saltwater have sturgeon, including the Chehalis River, Columbia River and Skagit River.

"This is great because the sturgeon is a native fish, and it's still there," Michael said.


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