Thursday, May 8, 2014

Visit to the Sturgeon Lab at UNB

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. James Kieffer at the University of New Brunswick to take a little tour of the sturgeon lab they have established there.   In this lab, Dr. Kieffer and his students study the development and behaviour of sturgeon as well as their behavioural and physiological reactions to different environmental changes and stresses.  

With me on this trip, were my two boys Fynn and Rowan.   Both boys love to accompany me on fishing trips, Fynn has actually caught a couple of sturgeon himself last Fall.    Fynn was very excited to visit and actual laboratory where scientists do experiments, while Rowan just wanted to see and touch fish!

Dr. Kieffer brought us all down to the sturgeon lab where the boys got to see all sorts of young sturgeon, and even hold one.   Rowan held, and kissed his, while Fynn opted not to hold one himself, but rather focused on all the devices that were set up to do the experiments.

There were lots of shortnose sturgeon in different containers.   There was also a room with three large containers holding strugeon all of the same age.  In one container were shortnose, the next atlantics, while in the third there were hybrids.    The shortnose and the hybrids looked basically idential to my untrained eye in color, shape and size.   The Atlantics however were much smaller and near black.    Interestingly enough, the same fish used as parents for the hybrids, were used to parent the purebreds.   Essentially the hybrids were half brothers / half sisters to the pure shortnose and atlantics.        It will be interesting to see these fish in a few years once they are bigger to see what traits show up differently in the hybrids versus the shortnose.

Once though the various rooms with sturgeon, Dr. Kieffer took us to a lab with lots of preserved fish in bottles, and skeletons of animals(including real human skeletons!).    The boys found this very interesting as well. especially the Gar and Pufferfish!    We may have a couple of future biology students on our hands here!

One of the interesting things I learned on my trip is that sturgeon do school.    This is something I often wondered.   So if you do go fishing and catch a strugeon, there is a pretty good chance there are more sturgeon around!

I also learned that there definately are some Atlantics around the Sturgeon Alley area, though very few.   Of the 70-something caught for the Sturgeon Tournament last October, there were (I think) 2 atlantics recorded and both rather small.  Those that I have been catching are probably not actually atlantics but possibly hybrids.   I will be gathering much better data in the future getting video of those fish from all angles with measurements in the pictures to ensure scale is accurate.   This information will help the folk at UNB to best determine exactly what the traits are we have questioned on these strugeon and what exactly is going on there.

We also chatted about where one would go to catch one of the BIG atlantics.   Apparently every year they find 10-12 foot (400 pound!) Atlantic Sturgeon in their nets over on the other side of the Kingston Peninsula.  I am going to have to head over there before long to see if I can hook into a fish the size of my kayak!    Obviously I won't be able to get it into my kayak, but I'd love to get it next to the kayak where I'd be sure to grab some awesome video and pictures!     There is great striper fishing over there as well, so all the more reason to give it a try!

Anyhow, thank you again Dr. Kieffer for a very education and fun time for my boys and I!   I am sure we will be in touch again soon!