Trying to find the answer to this seemingly simple question can be a bit of a challenge.
In simple terms, yes – you can eat sturgeon. Bear in mind though, this is a very simple answer to a more complex question: while sturgeon is safe to eat, there may be legal restrictions on whether you are allowed to eat it or not.
In my view, big sturgeon are superb fighters and deserve to be released after capture.
There are also your own personal conservation and sustainability responsibilities to consider as well as the legal ramifications.
In this article, we look at some key points surrounding the question of whether you can eat sturgeon or not.
All about sturgeon
There are 27 different species of sturgeon. Of all of these, only 4 are not considered endangered.
Overfishing and damage to their natural habitat have caused large declines in sturgeon populations.
Another issue facing sturgeons is their late sexual maturity. Females take up to 26 years before reproducing which puts a big strain on population numbers.
It is sad to think that fossils have been found showing that sturgeons have existed on Earth for at least 200 million years and now they are in real danger of being driven to extinction.
Where are they found?
Wild sturgeon live in a range of habitats. They are found throughout Europe, Asia, and North America.
They are a bottom-feeding species so they eat small fish and invertebrates that they find by sifting through the sand or silt located on the floor of the body of water they live in.
Sturgeon measuring 7 – 10 feet (two-three meters) are fairly common throughout the species.
Most white sturgeon fit into this length range but some have been seen as large as 20 feet (six meters).
The Beluga Sturgeon is the largest species of all sturgeon and can grow as long as 24 feet (seven meters) and weigh in excess of 3500 pounds (1500 kilos).
If you are attempting to catch wild sturgeon then you will need to make sure you have suitable gear that can withstand the sheer size and weight of this threatened species.
A heavy-duty bottom fishing reel and a heavy-duty hook attached to a 400 lb monofilament shock leader will be required as well as a high-quality swivel.
Your chances of catching sturgeon increase by using fresh bait – the fresher, the better.
Bait options include freshwater clams, salmon eggs, squid, or other small freshwater fish that would be found in the same habitat you are fishing in.
If attempting to catch sturgeon in freshwater, then you will want to look for deep pools of water and get your bait down to the floor of the lake or river.
Catching sturgeon in the sea will rely on you taking the tide into account. If the tide is in, small pools of 4 – 6 feet in depth make for good starting points. If the tide is out, then you will need to make your way out to deeper waters to have any luck.
You should always bear in mind that if you do end up hooking a sturgeon, they are large, powerful fish and they will put up a big fight.
Can you eat sturgeon?
Yes, sturgeons are safe to eat. However, the main reason why you can’t always actually eat sturgeon is the rules surrounding their capture.
In some areas throughout North America such as Florida and California, there are strict restrictions on species that can be caught and taken home. For example, all wild sturgeon species found in Florida are catch and release only. In California, it is the same ruling for Green Sturgeon.
These restrictions have been put in place as a result of strain on populations. Sturgeons need help to continue to survive in our waters so it is important these rules are adhered to and enforced.
How can you eat sturgeon?
Sturgeon eggs are the only true form of caviar.
You may hear the term “roe” which relates to fish eggs. However, this general term should not be mistaken for caviar. The roe of some sturgeon species is most certainly caviar, but roe of other fish species is not!
The roe from a Beluga Sturgeon is widely considered the highest quality of all sturgeon caviar and is extremely expensive with prices ranging from $5000 – $10,000 per kilogram.
Even if you choose lower-quality caviar, you should still expect to pay at least $60 per ounce.
If you like raw fish then you will be please to hear that sturgeon can be eaten raw.
Raw sturgeon is said to have quite a robust and potent flavor so it can be too much for some people.
However, if you are a fan of sushi and sturgeon is available, you might find you enjoy it more than other types of fish you’ve eaten before.
Sturgeon can be cooked in a number of different ways including poaching and baking.
As sturgeon meat has such a firm texture, it grills very well and won’t crumble or fall apart like other fish might during the cooking process.
Sturgeon also cooks very well when smoked. It has a great ability to hold smoke so you can get some incredible flavors by smoking your sturgeon.
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Most sturgeon available to buy on the market today is white sturgeon. This would have been farm-bred, likely on the sturgeon farms of California.
Farmed white sturgeon has a more subtle flavor than its wild counterparts. Wild-caught sturgeon has much more of an earthy taste to it.
Sturgeon is known as the “steak of seafood” as it has very firm flesh and is particularly meaty.
As it is becoming more and more difficult to legally get your hands on sturgeon, if you get the opportunity to try some, it is highly recommended.
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