Prehistoric White Sturgeon within the Snake River: Series part 1

LEWISTON, ID - The white sturgeon is the largest freshwater fish in North America, but rarely do people see the prehistoric monster swimming below us... that is until now.

Reporter Sophia Miraglio begins a two-part series, as she joins an excursion up river to learn about the fish.

White sturgeon are something of a mystery as they choose the deepest holes and swiftest water of the Snake River as their homes.

But now the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Idaho Power are shining light on the pre-historic giant that swims in the rivers darkness.

"Brown bodies, white coloring and there's five rows of boney skutes that are used as protection when they're small," said Idaho Power Biologist, Ken Lepla.

"They've been around since the time of dinosaurs," said Clearwater Regional Fisheries Manager, Joe Dupont. "So they are a creature that has been able to adapt to a changing environment than most creatures have."

The species ability to adapt is undeniable, but now could an unlikely source be harming the historic fish?

"Over the last ten to fifteen years when dead sturgeon showed up on the beach we would autopsied them, and what we were seeing is that in some of these fish we were seeing hooks inside," said Dupont.

This finding has led to one of the first studies of it's kind.

"The big question is to whether or not that metal has an effect on overall fish health," said Idaho Power Co. Fishery Biologist, Phil Bates.

A question that they're looking to answer.

"Today were actually capturing fish to x-ray and look for metal," said Bates.

"We can compare the two pictures and see what pieces are still there and what pieces have moved on," said IDFG Sr. Research Biologist, Tony Lamansky.

The field work for the hook study is expected to be completed next year.

Be sure to join us Friday for the second segment of the series. We'll find out what the study's showing, and learn how the population compares to ten years ago.