What is a White Sturgeon?

K. K. Lowen
K. K. Lowen
Eggs from white sturgeon are used to produce some varieties of caviar.
Eggs from white sturgeon are used to produce some varieties of caviar.

The white sturgeon is the biggest freshwater fish found in North America. It has been known to reach lengths of up to 20 feet (6 meters). White sturgeons live along the Pacific coast of North America, from Alaska to Northern Mexico. Fishermen commonly seek them for commercial purposes as well as for sport.

The scientific name for this fish is acipenser transmontanus, but it is also known under a variety of other names, most of which relate to various areas where the fish are plentiful. Oregon sturgeon, California white sturgeon, Pacific sturgeon, Sacramento sturgeon, and Columbia sturgeon are all alternate names for this fish.

The bottom side of the fish is white, while the rest of its body parts are different shades of gray. It has a long, slender body that is not covered with normal scales but with scutes, which are much harder than typical fish scales. White sturgeons have scutes in front of their back fin, along their sides, and on their bottom side. The fish use scutes as a form of protection.

White sturgeons live in bays and other partially enclosed bodies of ocean water throughout the Pacific coast of North America. Although their preferred habitats have large amounts of salt water, the fish tend to live in areas where fresh water sources flow into the salt water. They also live at the mouths of large rivers where the water has a high salt content.

This fish is a common food that has been caught commercially for a long time. The meat is popular, but some people enjoy eating the eggs as well. Some companies use white sturgeon eggs to make caviar, a type of food made from a variety of fish eggs.

Sport hunting of white sturgeon is popular, though most areas have regulations concerning the number of white sturgeons that may be caught. Size limits are also common. The regulations are in place because of conservation efforts, as the overall number of white sturgeon have declined over the years. The construction of dams, illegal fishing, and pollution have had a negative effect on white sturgeon populations.

The fish reach maturity between 15 to 25 years of age. Estimates for the life span of white sturgeon reach as high as 100 years. Life expectancy and growth rate usually depend on water temperature and other environmental factors.

Reproduction may occur multiple times throughout the life span of a white sturgeon. At the end of the spring season and the beginning of summer, the fish gather together to spawn eggs in rivers with high currents and rocky beds. The females can produce anywhere from one hundred thousand to one million eggs at a time.

Discussion Comments


Wow! It's surprising that the white sturgeon female lays anywhere from 100,000 to a million eggs at one time. You would think that caviar would be cheaper because so many eggs are available. But I have heard that a lot of the eggs get squished and are not useable.

I have eaten caviar spread on toast. I didn't care for it very much. It was very salty. I can understand why sturgeon likes to live in or near salt water.

A friend of mine told me that the very best caviar is made from the Beluga sturgeon, found in the Caspian and Black Seas. He said that they are large, black eggs and absolutely delicious. No thanks!


I saw a documentary about the lake sturgeons inhabiting the Great Lakes, and the Mississippi River. There's an interesting story here.

Early on, before 1850, these sturgeons were considered a "pain." They were so large, they destroyed fishing gear.

But later, it was discovered they were good to eat, especially the eggs, so fishermen just about fished out the whole lot.

After the numbers went way down for many years because of pollution and environmental changes, the population seems to be coming back slowly.

Sometimes a declining population seems to be able to come back on its own.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Eggs from white sturgeon are used to produce some varieties of caviar.
      By: darkbird
      Eggs from white sturgeon are used to produce some varieties of caviar.