Sturgeon injures woman on Suwannee River

-A A +A
By The Staff

Special to the Citizen
A woman was injured when a sturgeon crashed through her boat’s windshield and showered her with glass April 27.
Erica Stevens, of Safety Harbor, received minor injuries, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) investigators.
At about 5 p.m., Stevens and her husband, Scott, who was operating the boat, were on the Suwannee River north of the U.S. 19 Bridge in Gilchrist County, traveling at about 15 mph when a 5-foot sturgeon jumped up in front of Stevens’ vessel and crashed through the boat’s windshield, FWC officials said.
Erica Stevens was sitting behind the passenger windshield and was hit by flying glass, sustaining cuts on her arms and legs.  According to investigators, it’s not certain that the sturgeon ever made contact with her during the incident. 
Her husband took her to Shands Hospital in Gainesville. The sturgeon strike was reported to FWC the next day, and an investigation began.
The sturgeon also struck the bimini-top support and the motor cowling before coming to rest inside the vessel. The Stevens’ 1973, 15-foot Lightning boat sustained approximately $2,300 in damages.
Scott Stevens told investigators he threw the sturgeon back into the river but thought it was dead.
“This is the first sturgeon strike in 2011,” said Maj. Lee Beach, law enforcement commander of the FWC’s North Central Region. “And that’s one too many.”
Beach explained, “We certainly don’t want to scare anyone off the river. The Suwannee is beautiful, and we want folks to come out and enjoy their trip. We just want to remind boaters that the sturgeon are back in the Suwannee, and they are jumping during this time of year.”
In 2006, FWC officials began working on a public-awareness campaign.
What’s the best course of action for avoiding a collision?
“We recommend boaters reduce their speed to reduce the risk of impact and to give people more time to react if they do encounter a jumping sturgeon,” Beach said.  “The FWC also recommends that all boaters wear their life jackets.”
Biologists are unsure why sturgeon jump.  Gulf sturgeon can get quite big, exceeding 8 feet and 200 pounds. 
State and federal laws protect sturgeon, just like bald eagles, panthers and sea turtles. The Gulf sturgeon is listed as threatened, and their harvest is prohibited.
To report sturgeon collisions, call 888-404-FWCC (3922).