New insights into larval lake sturgeon daytime drift dynamics

Document Type


Publication Date



Department of Biological Sciences


Drifting post yolk-sac (PYS) lake sturgeon Acipenser fulvescens larvae were believed to seek refuge in substrate during daytime although there were no data to support this theory. There is growing scientific literature on important habitat, such as for adults and where eggs are spawned and hatch, however a gap remains in understanding duration of drift for PYS larvae, especially during daytime. This study was undertaken to find drifting PYS lake sturgeon larvae during the day in the Sturgeon River, Michigan, a clear yet tannin-rich river with a well-studied self-sustaining population. River substrates were mapped, and light, velocity, and depth data gathered to describe ‘believed’ refuge for larvae during daylight. From 2013 through 2016 nighttime drift samples (n = 463) for PYS lake sturgeon larvae were complemented with 143 daytime kick net samples and 43 daytime drift sets. No drifting larvae were collected in the daytime kick nets covering a variety of substrate types while over 1,600 PYS larvae were captured in drift nets at night, and 34 were captured in daytime drift sets. These 34 PYS larvae were in the previously unsampled thalweg in ~5% of surface light and at velocities of 0.24 to 0.57 m/s. Data suggest that drifting PYS lake sturgeon larvae do not stop and seek refuge during daylight but rather drift quickly and continuously downstream until suitable habitat is encountered. Measures of light, depth, velocity and thalweg presence combined with LiDar and Sonar mapping will be critical to understanding river suitability and restoration success for this species.

Publication Title

Journal of Great Lakes Research