Acipenser fulvescens
Lake sturgeon

Key Characteristics

Lake sturgeon are characterized by a robust, torpedo-shaped body covered by five rows of bony plates or scutes. The snout is cone-shaped with four barbells preceding a ventral mouth. The tail is asymmetrical with a longer upper lobe (heterocercal).

Status and Rank

  • State Status: T
  • State Rank: S2
  • Global Rank: G3G4


County NameNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Presque Isle11980
St. Clair32000
Distribution map for Acipenser fulvescens

Updated 5/15/2018. Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


Lake sturgeon are generally benthic species and occur in large rivers and shallow areas of large lakes. They are most often associated with unvegetated deep run and pool habitats (>5ft) in rivers (Hay-Chmielewski and Whelan 1997). In lakes, habitat use varies and depends on availability. Spawning often occurs in gravel bottom streams, but rocky, wave-swept lake shore and islands areas are also used when riverine habitats are unavailable.

Specific Habitat Needs

Cobble substrate needed in Mainstem Stream (3rd-4th order), Riffle, River (5th-6th order), Riffle, River (5th-6th order), Pool, River (5th-6th order), Run, Great Lake, Littoral, Benthic, Great Lake, Littoral, Midwater Organic matter substrates needed in River (5th-6th order), Pool, River (5th-6th order), Run, Great Lake, Littoral, Benthic, Great Lake, Littoral, Midwater Sandy substrate needed in River (5th-6th order), Pool, River (5th-6th order), Run, Great Lake, Littoral, Benthic, Great Lake, Littoral, Midwater

Natural Community Types


For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.


Sturgeon are on the decline worldwide. Obstacles to rehabilitating sturgeon include physical barriers to migration, loss and degradation of spawning and nursery areas, and fishing pressures (Rochard et al. 1990). Declining water quality, sea lamprey parasitism, zebra mussel colonization of spawning habitats, predation of eggs by round gobies, and contaminants are additional threats in the Great Lakes (Hay-Chmielewski and Whelan 1997). Stream conservation practices, such as maintaining or establishing sufficient riparian buffers or natural flows, and chemical pollution and exotic species control are important steps to managing for sturgeon populations.

Active Period

Spawning from first week of May to fourth week of June

Survey Methods

Sturgeon are found in such varied habitats that a wide variety of sampling techniques are used. Hydroacoustic technology are currently being tested for use in sturgeon population assessments.

Page Citation

Michigan Natural Features Inventory. 2007. Rare Species Explorer (Web Application). Available online at [Accessed Sep 25, 2018]

More Information

See MNFI Species Abstract


Survey References

Technical References

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