Man says 6-foot sturgeon jumped in boat

Published: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 31, 2009 at 10:42 p.m.

The second known encounter of the year between humans and sturgeon on the Suwannee River was reported late Friday but occurred earlier last month.

According to Karen Parker, spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the latest incident occurred Aug. 9 and involved a Miami man, his girlfriend and a 14-foot-long jon boat.

The man called Parker's office on Friday to report that an approximately 6-foot-long sturgeon jumped over his girlfriend as she sat in the bow and landed on the floor of the boat.

"He told us it took three tries to get it up onto a seat and then back into the water," Parker said. "He said that at one point he thought he was going to have to jump into the water with the fish to get it out of the boat."

Once it was back in the river, the sturgeon reportedly floated on the surface for a short time before swimming off. The sturgeon appeared to have a gash on its side that may have been the result of landing in the boat, Parker said, and the man's legs had cuts on them from struggling to return the big fish to the water.

The first incident occurred earlier in the summer when a woman in a boat was hit on the side of the face by a jumping sturgeon, leaving her with a black eye and split lip.

In the summer of 2008, the wildlife commission recorded three encounters between humans and sturgeon, but dozens of encounters were reported in 2007 and 2006, during which boaters were seriously injured.

The Suwannee River is home to a large population of sturgeon, which can grow to more than 8 feet long and weigh up to 200 pounds. State biologists have estimated that between 6,500 and 7,500 of the fish spend eight or nine months a year in the river.

Researchers have not determined why the species, millions of years old, tends to jump out of the water.

"Figuring out why fewer people are being hit this summer and last is like figuring out why they jump in the first place," Parker said. "There are lots of theories, but no one really knows for sure."

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