British Columbia

Researchers catch record-breaking Nechako sturgeon, thought to be nearly 100 years old

The largest Nechako white sturgeon on record was caught and released near Vanderhoof, B.C., earlier this month. 

The giant fish weighed in at 152 kilograms, or 336 pounds, before it was released

Staff at Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre caught the giant fish and released it shortly after. (Submitted by Jordan Cranmer)

The largest Nechako white sturgeon on record was caught and released on the Nechako River near Vanderhoof, B.C., earlier this month. 

Weighing in at 152 kilograms (336 pounds) and measuring 2.9 metres (9.6 feet), the huge fish was caught by staff at the Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre (NWSCC).

"It was really an amazing experience," Jordan Cranmer, a junior researcher and outreach technician at the centre, told Carolina de Ryk on CBC's Daybreak North.

"As she got closer and closer to the boat, we really realized that we were in for a record."

The sturgeon is estimated to be nearly 100 years old, is almost blind and remarkably fertile, says Cranmer.

"She was first caught in 2011 and this capture was actually only 10 kilometres away from her original capture," Cranmer said. 

Since its last capture, he says the fish has grown 52 pounds (23.5 kilograms) heavier and seven inches (18 centimetres) longer.

The last record-breaking sturgeon pulled in by the centre was in 2007, when a female hit 145 kilograms (320.9 pounds) on the scale. 

The sturgeon was first caught in 2011 by researchers. (Submitted by Jordan Cranmer)

Cranmer says sturgeon have long spawning lives, so they can spawn, take a break for a few years and then spawn again. 

Ready to spawn this year

"When she was caught in 2011, she wasn't quite ready. She wasn't quite fertile. But it was really a great discovery to find out that she was ready to spawn this year," said Cranmer. 

Once caught, the fish was taken by staff to their research centre to spawn before being released back into the river.

While the Nechako River is a tributary of the Fraser River, studies have found that the sturgeons found in either river are genetically different from each other, according to the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative. Sturgeons in the lower Fraser can reach six metres in length and 800 kilograms in weight.

The Nechako white sturgeon is considered endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. 

Cranmer says it's important people enjoy the outdoors respectfully and support habitat restoration in order to ensure spawning areas for the fish remain protected.

"Whether that is just picking up litter in the river or around the river beds or supporting a habitat restoration project," Cranmer said. 

The conservation centre is looking for a name for the biggest sturgeon yet. Cranmer says anyone with a creative idea is encouraged to submit it on their Facebook page.

With files from Daybreak North