Rare fish discovered in Mississippi’s Pearl River, traveled 200 miles and over dam on its journey

Published 6:55 am Monday, January 17, 2022

A fish that hasn’t been sighted in 25 years in the central Mississippi waters of the Pearl River has been detected in the Jackson area.

The sighting of a Gulf sturgeon has researchers using exclamation marks in their social media posts about the find.

The fish apparently traveled more than 200 miles up the Pearl River and was able to get over a dam on the river to reach Jackson.

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“A 5-foot long Gulf sturgeon was detected in the Pearl River near LeFleurs Bluff State Park ABOVE the Jackson Waterworks dam this past spring!!” the nonprofit Pearl River Keeper reported on Facebook on Jan. 13.

Two lowhead dams on the Pearl River are barriers to their natural migration and spawning patterns, according to the social media post. Researcher believe floodwaters likely helped the fish get over the dam.

In 1991, gulf sturgeons were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act after their population was greatly reduced or eliminated throughout much of their range because of overfishing, dam construction, and habitat degradation.

Before this past spring, the last confirmed Gulf sturgeon sighting in the Jackson area was 1996.

According to the post, the fish that was sighted in the spring was originally tagged in 2017 and was detected by a group of researchers from Dr. Michael Andres’ lab from The University of Southern Mississippi.

The Gulf sturgeon is an anadromous species, meaning that it lives in saltwater but travels up freshwater rivers to spawn.

According to fisheries.noaa.gov gulf sturgeon can grow to be 6 to 8 feet in length and weigh up to 200 pounds. They are bluish-black or olive-brown on their dorsal side (or back), with paler sides and a white belly.  Gulf sturgeon live 20 to 25 years on average, but they may live up to 60 years.

Numerous sturgeon studies are currently being conducted on the Pearl River which will help scientists in their recovery efforts for this gorgeous endangered species. Exciting news for the Pearl River and the Gulf sturgeon.