Monday, May 16, 2011

Sturgeon Stampede

A peaceful Suwannee River scene. Did you notice the white explosion off to the right of the picture?
Compare it to the 30 foot houseboat to the left.

That is the splash of a  Gulf Sturgeon slamming the surface of the river after a leap out of the water.

In the picture above, a boat zips along as a sturgeon leaps just off the starboard bow.
The sturgeon return to the Suwannee to spawn in the spring and summer as they have done for millions of years. Part of this ancient ritual is jumping.
Don't ask me why they jump ... it should be clear.
It's mating season, remember?
They jump because they are happy.

It's a really good idea to slow down this time of year as you cruise the river. Already, there has been a boat-sturgeon collision with injuries.


Fosbury Flop.

When I first arrived at Manatee Springs on Sunday morning, I was on my motorcycle. I walked out the boardwalk to the river to see if the sturgeon were there and leaping. Not only were they there, but they were jumping like a bunch of mullet on steroids.
It was hard to get close for a photo since they were mostly jumping between the river center and the opposite bank.
So ... I zipped back home and switched the bike for the JEEP, which allowed me to launch my kayak in the Manatee Springs run and paddle across the Suwannee to where the action was.

That allowed me to get in the thick of things, but photographing these babies is a real challenge since you don't really know the point at which they will suddenly erupt from the tea colored water.

I would partially zoom in on an area and wait. If I was pointing in front, they would erupt behind me.
If I swung left, they would jump just a little to the right.
The digital delay of my beloved, but 5 year old Sony was a little maddening also.
I have a lot of splash only shots ... probably 5 of those for every shot shown here.

I did SEE beautiful photographs of sleek sturgeon in mid-leap with backlit gems of water spraying all around.
Just didn't capture those.

I think even these close cropped less than perfect shots can give you a feel for sturgeon spectacularity though.
It really is something to see ... and hear as these huge fish belly wop back into the river after a vertical flight of 6 feet.

I plan to return for more attempts, so maybe I can get that one shot that got away.

This shot is soft focus, but it does show a sturgeon at the peak of his leap.
These fish are so AWESOME!

Go see for yourself.
Prepare to be sturgeonated.


threecollie said...

Great shots! Wow!

kathy a. said...

nature! action! true love!

Robert V. Sobczak said...


lisa said...

That has got to be amazing to see!

rebecca said...

I camped for a night at Manatee Springs in February and saw the signs about sturgeon - of course, it was too early then to actually see the fish themselves, so it's fun to see your photos of the action!

cinbad122 said...

Fowler's Bluff?

Miz S said...

The sturgeon is "Nahma, King of Fishes" in the Hiawatha poem by Longfellow. Hiawatha has quite a tussle with Nahma.

who wouda thunk it?? said...

are they jumping because sumpthin's chasing them, or because it's fun??

Floridacracker said...

Hello, Fishophiles.
The leaping is spawning related and is quite possibly a courtship/dominance display.
I still think it boils down to feeling frisky.

Whatever the reason, it is wonderful to watch.

SophieMae said...

DAWGAWN! AbFab pichers, FC! I NEED to see that! Gotta get my wheels fixed. >:\

Thunder Dave said...

Hey Fc I finally am able to see your posts again! not sure what the issue was, but at least I'm back on for today!

How big are those sturgeon? They look pretty dang large!

Floridacracker said...

Up to 8 feet and 200+ lbs.

Some of these must have been in the 5-6 foot range.

The Florida Blogger said...

Very nice sturgeon pics!