A leaping sturgeon landed in a boat during a family fishing trip, hitting three children â€” one of whom was severely injured.
The incident happened on the Choctawhatchee River in the southern United States. A sturgeon, measuring around 120cm/4' in length leapt out of the water, grazing the back of the head of one child and hitting a 16-year-old girl with enough force to knock her out of the boat.
It also collided with an eight-year-old boy who was left unconscious after a blow to the head. He was flown to hospital and doctors later determined he had two skull fractures.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is urging boaters to go slow and be vigilant on the river.
While sturgeon strikes are rare on the Choctawhatchee, they have happened before. In 2002 a man was motoring down the river when he caught the full impact of a leaping sturgeon in the middle of his chest. He suffered a cracked sternum and bruised internal organs.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) does extensive work on northwest Florida rivers with Gulf sturgeon. In 2012, the FWS estimated the population at 3,400 in the Choctawhatchee River and 500-1,000 in the Apalachicola River. The Suwannee River, in northeast Florida, has the most, with a population estimated at 10,000 to 14,000 fish. There have been numerous injuries to humans on the Suwannee from sturgeon strikes over the past several decades.
Scientists don’t know why sturgeon jump or leap from the water.
Meanwhile, fisheries biologists say by the end of summer Gulf sturgeon will leave all northwest Florida rivers and head to the Gulf, where they will spend the winter. They say the best thing boaters can do is slow down, wear a life jacket and be observant.
Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer.
Don't forget that PFK is now available to download on the iPad.