The first mature female Atlantic Sturgeon since the 1970s has been found wandering about in the Chesapeake Bay.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologists were looking for sturgeon to tag last month and found eight adults in an Eastern Shore tributary. One was a 7-foot, 3-inch, 154-pound female.

Atlantic Sturgeon found in Chesapeake Bay

DNR Fisheries Biologist Mark Bowermaster with recently caught Atlantic Sturgeon (Photo courtesy Maryland DNR)

Atlantic sturgeon are a bony, ancient fish.They used to visit the Chesapeake Bay in the spring to spawn, mainly in Virginia’s James and York rivers, according to the Chesapeake Bay Program. It’s been more than 40 years since a female has been found in the Chesapeake Bay. They were put on the endangered species list in April of 2012, making fishing Atlantic sturgeon against the law.

Since then, lower Chesapeake fishermen started reporting something strange — the bottom-feeding fish were jumping in and out of the water of Marshyhope Creek, a tributary off the Nanticoke River. Nobody knows why, but scientists wanted to study it.

However, they couldn’t find one.

After searching for the elusive sturgeon for three years, they finally caught some. They scooped up eight fish in nets on August 27.

Bay Journal story on Atlantic Sturgeon

The Bay Journal sent photographer David Harp to watch the catch. Find his story at

“While this is not clear evidence this species is successfully spawning in Maryland, it does indicate that more research in this tributary is warranted,” said Chuck Stence, DNR Anadromous Restoration project leader.

The fish were tagged and released. They’ll be tracked for years to come.


Here’s a Chesapeake Bay Program video of Atlantic Sturgeon swimming…