Guideline River Monsters Season 2 Episode 5 : Alaskan Horror

Extreme angler Jeremy Wade searches for the lethal lake monster of native legend that's been dragging people down to an icy grave for centuries. He ends up landing the largest fish he's ever caught, but is this the monster?

Acipenser transmontanus

Maximum Length: Up to 20 feet
Maximum Weight: Over 1,800 pounds

An Evolutionary Throwback: The biggest, baddest sturgeon of them all is the white sturgeon, which is the largest and most primitive freshwater fish in North America. The white sturgeon has been around for at least 100 million years, which would have qualified it to star in the movie "Jurassic Park." The biggest one on record stretched more than 20 feet in length and weighed almost 1,800 pounds. The white sturgeon is found in North American coastal waters from Alaska to Baja California, and in freshwater bodies as far inland as Montana. It is gray or brownish in color, with a pale underbelly.

Old Man of the Sea: In addition to its bony armor and cartilage skeleton, it has a notochord, a primitive precursor to the backbone, which is found in only one other animal, the equally atavistic lamprey. It lacks teeth, gets by with poor eyes and depends largely on its sense of smell to scrutinize its murky underwater environment. White sturgeon feed mostly on smaller fish, but less imposing species of sturgeon dine on small crustaceans, mollusks and even insects, using the species' tubular, stretchy, vacuum sweeper mouth to suck food from the sea bottom. White sturgeons spend most of their time in the ocean but swim up rivers to spawn. They're the real old men of the sea — the oldest on record lived to be 104.

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