Suwannee River Flying Sturgeon Smackdown

So far this spring things have been relatively quiet on Florida’s Suwannee River--compared to last year, anyway. But this past weekend a boat passenger became 2007’s second victim of the river’s notorious leaping gulf sturgeon.

The Gainesville Sun reports today that Tara Spears, 32, was knocked unconscious by a jumping gulf sturgeon as the boat in which she was riding passed a bridge near Rock Bluff. Fortunately, the recipient of this sturgeon smackdown did not receive serious physical injuries.Sturgeongulf

Last year was a record year for such incidents, with six such human-fish skirmishes reported by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. As a result, signs were placed at boat ramps and other points along the Suwannee, warning boaters of the river’s famous flying fish, which can top 8 feet and weigh up to 200 pounds.

In April, a leaping sturgeon severely injured a 50-year-old woman riding a personal watercraft on the Suwannee River. She suffered a ruptured spleen and had three fingers reattached by surgeons, but she lost her left pinkie finger and a tooth.

Last August, F&W; officer Dorvan Daniel witnessed a 5-foot, 40-pound sturgeon leap out of the river and into a passing boat, knocking a 9-year-old child into the water. The youngster received gashes on her neck, while an adult on board the boat suffered a broken arm and cuts to her legs.

And in April 2006 a woman boating on the river suffered a spinal fracture and serious facial injuries requiring plastic surgery.

A protected species, gulf sturgeon enter the Suwannee River from the Gulf of Mexico and spawn there during the summer months.

In addition to its size, the sturgeon’s bony protruding back plates can make a close encounter potentially life threatening.