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Old Shovelnose Sturgeon Living in the Yellowstone

October 03, 2007

Montana - August 21, 2007, found Robert Tallent of Forsyth, Montana, spending the day fishing the Yellowstone River downstream of Cartersville Dam. The afternoon temperature was in the mid-90s and no breeze, a calm lazy day. Conditions were perfect to drop a worm on the bottom of a hole to see what might happen.

The tranquility of the afternoon was broken about 1 p.m. when Robert hooked a fish. The fish rose to the surface and tail-walked across a gravel bar and dove back into the current. The classic battle took 20 minutes and Robert landed a shovelnose sturgeon, 40 inches in length and that weighed approximately 25 pounds. 

The catch was unique according to Robert, The sturgeon tail-walked across a gravel bar and these fish generally act like a log when hooked and are fairly easy to reel into shore. This one fought hard and it was a struggle to land the fish. While reeling the fish into shore I noticed it was tagged. I wrote down all the information, estimated the length and weight, took a photo with my cell phone and released the fish. The 2007 fishing regulations require turning loose any shovelnose sturgeon caught that measures over 40 inches so Robert released the fish.

Robert contacted Region 7, FWP with the information and Mike Backes, Fisheries Technician, began a file search to locate any information related to the tag number. Backes said, It took some digging through old files but I found the original tagging data for this fish. It was tagged in the Tongue River near the interstate bridge on May 17, 1982. That was 25 years ago. This is one old fish; it was 33 inches long and weighed 7.7 lbs when tagged. It was probably an adult and was likely 10-20 years old in 1982. The fish may be 35-45 years or older.

Robert and a friend returned to the same fishing hole 2 days later and sunk another worm to the bottom. They caught another large shovelnose sturgeon that also had a tag. The tag information was not legible so they were unable to turn in another cinch tag number for FWP to research. Robert said, Ive been fishing for thirty years and never caught a fish with a tag. Now weve caught two large tagged fish in two days. It was an unusual and interesting experience. It was exciting to find out the history of the sturgeon based on the tagging data.


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