US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



American Currents Vol. 38, No. 2


U.S. Government Work.


It starts deep at the bottom of the dark silent river, three to four powerful tail beats and three sharp acoustic clicks. Then, a sudden upturn of the body and the fish explodes upward, 100 pounds going vertical, catching air, lots of air. A good jump can power a big fish, six to nine feet into the air. You have to be quick to get a photo, hang time is only about a second, but an accomplished jump by a big old Suwannee River Gulf Sturgeon is impressive; a magnificent display of power. The exit is almost vertical. The tail continues to beat back and forth as the fish rises. Then, comes a half-twist of the body, sometimes a full 180-degree twist, followed by that signature loud body smack on the surface; a sturgeon version of the belly-flop. Nothing else on the river sounds like it. If you happen to be close by, the report is really impressive, if not downright scary. In the calm of the night, when the air is still, and nary a boat is stirring, that startling report can be heard from a mile or more away, even further underwater by another sturgeon. A loud splash upon re-entry isn’t the end of the sequence. At the peak of its jump, the big fish gulps air, re-filling its long swim bladder. Hitting the water, it immediately powers down deep, emitting one more sharp snapping sound on the way down, disappearing into the deep for another day.