Chesterton Tribune



Indiana and Illinois DNRs cracking down on illegal fishing of shovelnose sturgeon for caviar trade

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Law enforcement officers from Indiana and Illinois have increased their enforcement efforts of domestic caviar regulations since the onset of the 2012-13 Wabash River shovelnose sturgeon season, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources said.

Conservation officers from both states have recently increased its enforcement of the commercial fishing industry, particularly in the commercial harvest of shovelnose sturgeon, a fish sought for its roe, or eggs. Thirteen Indiana and Illinois residents have been arrested, cited, or warned for commercial fishing violations in the last year, the DNR said, while equipment seizures include 35 commercial fishing nets, three trot lines, two wire fish traps, and one boat/motor.

These violations include the following:

• Unlawful use of a gill net (6 counts)

• Failure to tag commercial fishing equipment (7 counts)

• Unlawful use of leads on commercial device (2 counts)

• Unlawful possession of sturgeon under 25” (4 counts)

• Fishing with an illegal device (wire trap) (2 counts)

• Fishing without a license (3 counts)

• Checking sturgeon for presence of eggs with an illegal device (2 counts)

“Since we share the fisheries resources with the people of the State of Illinois, it only makes sense to ensure that our regulations and enforcement efforts remain similar,” said Master Officer Steve Kinne, a commercial fishing investigator with the DNR. “At least 25 additional violations are being investigated for prosecution, involving several other individuals from both states.”

The shovelnose sturgeon is native to the waters of the Mississippi, Illinois, and Wabash rivers. Although some sport fishermen consume the meat from shovelnose sturgeon, its eggs have been targeted by commercial fishermen in recent years, after the collapse of the European sturgeon market. Supplies of roe collected from sturgeon in the Caspian Sea plummeted after government deregulation in that region.

Female shovelnose sturgeon living in the Wabash River migrate upstream annually to spawn. Its eggs, referred to as roe, are eventually sold, processed, and distributed as caviar. Processed shovelnose sturgeon roe (eggs), commonly referred to as hackleback caviar, currently has a retail market value of approximately $320 per pound. One adult roe-bearing sturgeon can contain as much as one pound of eggs.

“The Wabash River population of shovelnose sturgeon is one of the last commercially exploited sturgeon populations in the world, therefore, strict enforcement of regulations are necessary to ensure proper management while allowing a sustainable harvest,” DNR fish biologist Craig Jansen said.

Commercial fishermen in both states are allowed to take shovelnose sturgeon with approved commercial fishing devices on the Wabash River, as long as they possess the required licenses, the DNR said.

Approved commercial fishing devices in either state include, but are not limited to, hoop nets, fyke nets, basket nets, and basket traps, or trap nets made of twine or cord. Gill nets are prohibited in both states for taking sturgeon.

For additional information on commercial fishing regulations and season dates, go to or


Posted 11/14/2013