Updating sturgeon story by giving a sense of where they fit around Chicago and Illinois

Capt. Ernesto Amparan on his Thin Blue Line Fishing charter Saturday found a dead 5-foot sturgeon, which they first thought was a body. It brought up other notable sturgeon encounters in the Chicago area and what the species’ status is in Illinois.

SHARE Updating sturgeon story by giving a sense of where they fit around Chicago and Illinois

A dead sturgeon,originally mistaken for a body, found Saturday near the R4 buoy.

Capt. Ernesto Amparan of Thin Blue Line Fishing LLC

I’m not sure whether finding a sturgeon or a body is rarer on Lake Michigan.

‘‘I could see a large object floating in the water with a white shirt approximately 300 to 400 yards south from me and in close proximity to the recovery of the first body,’’ Capt. Ernesto Amparan of Thin Blue Line Fishing emailed on noticing a surprise Saturday while setting up lines in 113 feet for a charter near the R4 buoy off the north suburbs.

Earlier Saturday, another charter had found a body believed to be the 41-year-old swimmer unaccounted for in ‘‘harsh swimming conditions’’ June 30 off Evanston.


A big dead sturgeon, originally mistaken for a body, found Saturday near the R4 buoy.

Capt. Ernesto Amparan of Thin Blue Line Fishing LLC

‘‘I called the Coast Guard to report my observation, just in case I couldn’t get all my lines out of the water in time before it continued to float away,’’ Amparan emailed. ‘‘As I got closer, the object was getting bigger. My customers all believed it was a person floating, but to our surprise it was an approximately 5-foot dead sturgeon. I have seen one in Lake Michigan before, and it was interesting to see a dead one floating around. My customers were relieved it wasn’t a body and were excited to see the sturgeon.’’

They should be. Lake sturgeon are very rare in the Chicago area.

The Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board lists lake sturgeon as endangered in the state. But a reintroduction was started late last year with the stocking of 4,600 young lake sturgeon from Jake Wolf Memorial Fish Hatchery into the Illinois River and its tributaries.

The most famous sturgeon in Chicago history is probably the one of 45 inches, weighing 20 pounds and 2 ounces, caught and released by Collier Moore on Feb. 28, 2000, from Wolf Lake. It had been tagged with Wisconsin tag 5-S-8012 on Aug. 11, 1994, on the Wolf River, about 105 miles upstream of Lake Winnebago. It probably arrived via Green Bay and Lake Michigan.

Of more recent vintage was the 40-inch lake sturgeon, which had a girth of 21 inches and weighed 17.5 pounds, that Tariq Khan caught and released on April 17, 2021, from the south side of Montrose Harbor. He was bottom-fishing for whitefish, lake trout or brown trout with night crawlers.

Wild things

In response to my note last week that I am seeing fewer fireflies than usual, William Paul replied: ‘‘Here in Grundy County, I’m noticing MORE fireflies than usual. It’s been a great year for them. I figured it was due to the early rain and warmth.’’

•  I counted a personal-record 14 rabbits on my ramble Sunday morning with Lady. I keep waiting for coyotes to arrive and thin their ranks.

•  Kate Fuentes sent more photos of the black red fox kit in Lockport, one of them with a regular red fox kit.


A red fox kit with a rare black fox kit in Lockport.

Kate Fuentes

Stray cast

May the All-Star break be to Chicago baseball what a thunderstorm is to a fishless day

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