An ancient fish still swims in Lake Champlain. Biologists and anglers are seeing more giant, long-lived lake sturgeon here, even as an environmental group calls for greater protection for the species around the country.
Chet MacKenzie, with Vermont Fish & Wildlife, has worked with lake sturgeon for 20 years. When the fisheries biologist first began his research on Lake Champlain, all MacKenzie found were young fish and he wasn’t sure they were still spawning in the lake’s tributaries. The news these days is more encouraging.
“It’s been kind of a wild morning,” MacKenzie said last week as he eased an aluminum boat to the edge of the Winooski River near Burlington. Red buoys mark where the sturgeon spawn in the fast water below a dam.
“We picked up a dead sturgeon at the Heineberg Bridge that one of the wardens recovered, and brought that up,” he continued. “And then this morning when we were setting nets, we had — the water was a little high — so we had a net drift on us. … As we pulled it in, we had a sturgeon there. We couldn’t catch it because we didn’t have the dip net with us.”