British anglers could soon find themselves battling prehistoric giant sturgeon in some of the nation’s rivers, Angling Times can exclusively reveal this week.
While the capture of tackle-trashing giant sturgeon is the kind of sport usually associated with expensive fishing holidays to Canada’s British Columbia, it is becoming increasingly likely that these remarkable fish will appear in our rivers over the coming years.
While there are no records of the common, or European, sturgeon breeding in the UK, there are records of historical catches both by commercial fishermen and rod and line anglers, topped by Alec Allen’s capture from the River Towy of a 9ft 2ins long, 388lb official record in July 1933, the biggest British fish ever caught from freshwater on rod and line.
And, due to a huge restocking effort to protect the last-known spawning population in Europe on France’s Lower Gironde river, with artificially-reared fish being stocked in 2007, 2008 and 2009, chances are UK anglers could soon do battle with them while fishing for other species.
“It is possible that adolescent sturgeon may appear in UK coastal waters and river estuaries within the next five years,” said an EA spokesperson.
“We will be developing a detailed record of where the species has been recorded in the UK as part of European-wide conservation efforts. The species spends the first decade of its life around estuaries, and expert opinion in France has said it is possible that during this time the sturgeon migrate to other estuaries,” they added.
While there are no plans to reintroduce sturgeon to UK waters, the Gironde situation will be closely monitored and used to shape future policy.
And confirmed sightings in UK rivers over the past 15 years, together with the sale of a 10ft, 260lb-plus specimen caught from Swansea Bay in 2004, suggest that it is only a matter of time before an angler receives the shock of their life by hooking into one.
A prehistoric-looking, scale-less fish with five distinctive rows of bony plates, known as ‘scutes’, running the length of the body
Dark grey/black back fading to lighter underside, often with green or yellow colouration
The head features an extended snout with two sets of barbules and an underslung, extendable mouth
In the 1930s, anglers landed two sturgeon from rivers in South Wales, one of which was reported to have weighed in at more than 440lb
A 320lb sturgeon overturned two coracles and broke three nets during its capture on the Towy in June 1896
Recent confirmed sightings on the Towy occurred in June 1986, June 1990 and June 1993
In 1860, a fish was caught from the Great Ouse at Hemmingford Grey, in Cambridgeshire, more than 40 miles from the sea.