KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The sturgeon fish’s evolution dates back to the Triassic Period some 245 to 208 million years ago.
Saturday, Tennessee Clean Water Network released 2,000 young sturgeon fish into the French Broad River at Seven Island State Birding Park. The fish, which can live for over 150 years and get up to 13 pounds, is considered “State Endangered,” according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency.
“Sturgeon were extirpated from the Tennessee River in the late 60s, early 70s due to water quality issues, pollution and overfishing,” said Jason Henegar, Assistant Chief of Fisheries for TWRA. “We want to bring a native species back to the Tennessee River.”
Lake sturgeon have been released in the French Broad, Holston and Tennessee Rivers since 2000. TWRA says the fish can travel long distances and could be anywhere within the Tennessee River watershed including, but not limited to Tellico, Ft. Loudoun, Watts Bar, and Melton Hill Reservoirs. Tennessee Clean Water Network says lake sturgeon are Tennessee’s largest freshwater fish and they can live to be over 150 years old.
Heneger says he hopes Sturgeonfest will get the public interested in reintroducing sturgeon fish and being part of the conservation effort.
“The public, it gives them a tie to the river, to a species we’re trying to reintroduce and maybe when these kids grow up they’ll be able to catch fish in this river,” said Heneger. “We want to restore this fish to a sports fish level where people can come out and catch these fish.”