Featured image courtesy of Stephen Selinger
The sturgeon is the world’s biggest freshwater fish. Highly sought after for their delicious caviar and prized game fish, sturgeon are among the most incredible fish you can catch!
These gigantic fish have roamed the earth for more than 200 million years, and to this day, they can be found in many river systems, reservoirs, and basins around the globe.
But just how big do sturgeon really get?
Beluga, white, and lake sturgeon are, by far, the biggest sturgeon species. Belugas can reach a maximum size of over 20 feet and more than 3,000 pounds. White sturgeon can have a maximum size of about 20 feet and 1,500 pounds. Lake sturgeon can reach a size of 8 feet and 250 pounds.
If you’re interested in this extraordinary fish species and want to learn more about the sturgeon’s various sizes, you better keep reading!
What Is the Maximum Size of Sturgeon?
Sturgeon is the common name for fish species belonging to the family Acipenseridae. In total, there are 28 different sturgeon species.
So before we can determine the maximum size of sturgeon, we first have to talk about the largest members of this family.
By far, the three biggest types of sturgeon are beluga sturgeon, white sturgeon, and lake sturgeon (in that order).
So, let’s take a closer look at their respective maximum size:
What Is the Maximum Size of Beluga Sturgeon?
The beluga sturgeon (Huso huso) is also called the great sturgeon. And rightly so!
In fact, this sturgeon type is the largest freshwater fish species on earth! And it can get absolutely massive!
Beluga sturgeon can reach a maximum length of more than 20 feet and a maximum weight of over 3,000 lbs! That puts it at roughly the same size as most fully-grown great white sharks out there in the oceans.
Only belugas aren’t dwelling in the great oceans but are found in the Caspian and Black Sea and their tributaries in Eurasia and Central Asia.
Can you imagine a 20+ feet long fish swimming around in a river? Unreal!
What Is the Maximum Size of White Sturgeon?
The white sturgeon is somewhat smaller than the beluga sturgeon but can still reach a considerable size.
White sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) have an approximate maximum length of 18 to 20 feet and can reach a maximum weight of 1,200 to 1,500 lbs.
As this sturgeon species is native to many North American river systems, it is, by far, the continent’s largest freshwater fish species.
Their range stretches from the Gulf of Alaska all the way down to California, and smaller landlocked populations inhabit the Columbia River Drainage in Montana and Lake Shasta in California.
What Is the Maximum Size of Lake Sturgeon?
This is the smallest sturgeon member of the trio.
Lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens), also called rock sturgeon, are considerably smaller than both beluga and white sturgeon.
They can reach a maximum length of 7 to 8 feet and have a maximum weight of around 250 lbs.
What’s especially interesting about this sturgeon species is that it can be found in both European, Asian, and North American waters, and even though it is still fairly abundant in many of them, it is, unfortunately, considered an endangered species.
What Is the Average Size of Sturgeon?
Only few sturgeon will reach the maximum sizes listed above (mostly due to changing environmental factors and heavy overfishing).
The vast majority of fish will be somewhere within their respective average size. So what is the average size for a beluga, white, and lake sturgeon?
What Is the Average Size of Beluga Sturgeon?
Starting with the big boys, the average size of beluga sturgeon is somewhere between 4 and 12 feet and 100 and 600 lbs.
Those are still fairly big fish if you ask me!
What Is the Average Size of White Sturgeon?
The average size of white sturgeon is around 5 to 7 feet and 50 to 200 lbs.
However, as white sturgeons can be found in many river systems, their average size can vary significantly and is based on a great variety of factors. Some of them include:
- size and depth of water body
- water quality
- water temperature
- water turbidity
- river currents
- food abundance
- fishing pressure
- population genetics
- population size
And so, while some rivers might hold white sturgeon with an average size of 100 to 300 lbs, others might hold fish that only average a weight of 50 to 100 lbs.
What Is the Average Size of Lake Sturgeon?
The smallest of these three species, the lake sturgeon, has an average length of about 3 to 6 feet and an average weight of 30 to 100 lbs.
Again, though, these average sizes can and do vary greatly, especially considering the vast distribution of this sturgeon type.
However, due to heavy overfishing in the past, lake sturgeon of 200 or more are today a relatively rare catch.
What is the Biggest Sturgeon Ever Caught?
I will continue with how this article has been written so far and include all three sturgeon species in this section. These are magnificent fish, and all of them deserve to be mentioned.
And believe me, these record fish are regular giants, so make sure to keep reading!
What Is the Biggest Beluga Sturgeon Ever Caught?
Naturally, this record catch is the most impressive of the three, and at first, I couldn’t believe how huge this sturgeon was. So get ready for this one!
The biggest beluga sturgeon ever caught was a monster that fishermen caught in an estuary of the Volga River, Russia’s and Europe’s longest river, back in 1827.
I know what you’ll say now: fish sizes that date back around 200 years aren’t all that reliable. And you are not wrong! This one, however, is an accepted record that even made it into the 1983 Guinness Book of Animal Facts. So, the length and weight of this fish are actually reasonably accurate.
How big was this beluga, then? The beast measured an unbelievable 23 feet 7 inches and weighed 3,463 lbs. Can you even imagine the size of this giant fish?
Another giant beluga sturgeon reportedly measured 20 feet and weighed 2,690 lbs, but that catch has never been officially confirmed.
There are also unconfirmed reports of even larger belugas, supposedly measuring 30 or even 40 feet and weighing between 4,000 and 6,000 lbs. No one knows if such reports are accurate, but given the massive size and extremely old age of the species, it’s far from impossible!
Sadly, gigantic beluga sturgeon are a rarity these days, primarily due to the heavy overfishing the species has endured.
It is the beluga sturgeon’s eggs, the beluga caviar, that make the species both valuable and vulnerable.
Mature beluga sturgeons, fish of 1,000 to 2,000 lbs, can produce 30 to 80 pounds of eggs, and 1 pound of beluga caviar can sell for as much as $10,000. You do the math.
However, there is hope! More recently, tight regulations have come into effect that aim to protect, preserve, and recover this unique sturgeon species so that it, once again, may get the chance to reach massive sizes.
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What Is the Biggest White Sturgeon Ever Caught?
Now, we are leaving the giants behind and moving on to the somewhat smaller sturgeon world records. But don’t worry, these fish are still of regular monster sizes!
Both the US and Canada are home to huge white sturgeons, and plenty of really big fish have been caught in both countries.
The biggest one of them all was caught in Canada. More precisely, in the mighty Fraser River in British Columbia.
In 2012, former NHL goalie Kevin Estrada was fishing for sturgeon on the Fraser when he hooked up to a monster fish.
Kevin’s massive catch was the biggest white sturgeon ever caught on the Fraser River and in Canada.
It was also the biggest sturgeon ever caught in North America and the entire world (by a sport angler with a rod and reel)! One hell of a catch, wouldn’t you say?
This awesome white sturgeon had a length of 11 feet and measured an incredible 1,100 pounds.
The fish even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records.
What Is the Biggest Lake Sturgeon Ever Caught?
Moving on to the smallest of the three big sturgeon species, the lake sturgeon.
The official IGFA All-Tackle world record is a fish that was caught in Georgian Bay (Ontario) in 1982.
Angler Edward Paszkowski’s lake sturgeon weighed an impressive 168 lbs. And while plenty of sturgeons between 100 and 150 lbs have been caught in the US and Canada over the years, the record remains unbroken.
However, the biggest lake sturgeon ever recorded was caught in the US!
Back in 2012, Wisconsin DNR officials captured a gigantic lake sturgeon on the Wolf River that measured an incredible 7.3 feet (87.5 inches) and weighed a little over 240 lbs.
Furthermore, they estimated its age to be an unbelievable 125 years, making it the world’s oldest freshwater fish ever caught!
What Is the Biggest Sturgeon Ever Caught in the US?
This is an interesting one, as getting an accurate answer online is really hard.
If we’re checking the IGFA All-Tackle world record, we find that the biggest sturgeon ever caught in the US is a white sturgeon of 468 lbs.
Angler Joey Pallotta caught this fish on the Carquinez Strait (I suppose) near Benicia in California in 1983.
However, the biggest US sturgeon ever recorded is far larger than this all-tackle world record!
From all I could find during my research, that title goes to a white sturgeon caught on the C.J. Strike Reservoir in Idaho in 2022.
Angler Greg Poulsen managed to land a behemoth of 124 inches, breaking both the former Idaho state record (119 inches) and the US length record (114 inches), which belongs to the current All-Tackle world record fish.
As there are strict catch-and-release regulations for sturgeon in Idaho, this monster sturgeon could not be weighed.
But it is estimated that it could have weighed between 600 and 700 pounds, vastly outweighing the current US and All-Tackle world record white sturgeon, which weighed a mere 468 pounds.
How Fast Do Sturgeon Grow?
Despite growing fairly fast during their first years, sturgeon are relatively slow-growing fish.
After their first year, sturgeon can have a length of 7 to 12 inches. Then, during years 2 and 3, their growth rate slows to roughly 4 inches annually.
Once they are 3 years old and have an approximate length of 20 inches, the growth rate slows even more and will now range from 1 to 2 inches annually until they reach their maximum size.
Research has found that it takes the average white sturgeon about 50 or so years to reach a length of 7 feet.
So, given that these fish can reach lengths of around 20 feet, these creatures can get very old!
How Old Do Sturgeon Get?
While the average lifespan of both lake, white, and beluga sturgeon is between 40 and 60 years, these incredible fish can reach an age of 100 years or more!
DID YOU KNOW: The oldest white sturgeon on record was 103 years old.
The maximum age of the beluga sturgeon has yet to be determined, and it is believed that these fish could get as old as 150 years before their populations were so severely depleted.
Given that these fish species have been around for 200 million years, and they can actually get older than we humans, it may be time to show them the respect they deserve and stop this madness of overfishing!
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How Big Is a 20-Year-Old Sturgeon?
As there is most data about white sturgeon available on the internet, we will base these last sections on them alone.
A white sturgeon of 20 years can have an approximate length of 50 to 65 inches and a weight of 30 to 70 pounds.
Of course, these are mere average sizes as the growth rate of different fish and populations can vary significantly in the wild.
How Big Is a 50-Year-Old Sturgeon?
A white sturgeon of 50 years can have an approximate length of 85 to 100 inches and an approximate weight of 150 to 250 pounds.
How Big Is a 100-Year-Old Sturgeon?
A white sturgeon of 100 years will pretty much have reached the end of its life and, thereby, its maximum size.
At such an advanced age, a white sturgeon has an approximate length of 220 to 240 inches and will weigh between 1,200 and 1,500 lbs.
Please note that fish of such an age and size are incredibly scarce nowadays! If they even still exist at all.
How Big Were Ancient Sturgeon?
Surprisingly, ancient sturgeon basically had the same size and appearance as today’s sturgeon! They have simply always been this large.
The absence of large predators in our modern times should suggest a smaller size, but as sturgeon have an exceptionally slow rate of molecular evolution, they haven’t had the “time” to change yet.
And so, if you had walked the earth about 200 million years ago and somehow managed to catch a prehistoric sturgeon, chances are that it would have been as big as the sturgeon we have today.
Of course, there would have been far more bigger specimens, as there was no overfishing back then. Clearly, some things were better in the past, weren’t they?
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Featured image courtesy of Stephen Selinger