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Signs to warn of jumping fish

AUG. 24 — Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission authorities are planning to post signs along the state’s SuwanneeRiver warning of the dangers of jumping sturgeon after one of the fish injured two boaters last weekend.

A sturgeon that jumped from the river knocked a 9-year-old girl from a boat and broke the arm of a 31-year-old woman who was also on the boat, Florida’s Gainesville Sun newspaper reported. Both passengers are from Lake City, Fla. It was the sixth reported incident involving jumping sturgeon on the river this year.

“We’re preparing to post signs along the Suwannee at each boat ramp, explaining the risk of impacts with these fish,” a FWC commander says in the report. “We want to make the public aware that these fish are in the Suwannee and they do jump. We recommend boaters reduce their speed to reduce the risk of impact.”

FWC officials estimate the sturgeon involved in the most recent incident weighs about 40 pounds and measures about 5 feet in length, the news report says. The woman who suffered the broken arm also had cuts on her legs. The girl who was knocked overboard had gashes on her neck. Sturgeons are boneless but have hard, sharp plates on their backs.

“The plates are bony and [protrude] outside their skin, and are dull-knife sharp,” an FWC officer says in the report. “It did just miss the jugular vein,” he says of the fish’s collision with the girl.

Earlier this month a 23-year-old man riding a personal watercraft on the river was struck by a jumping 4-foot sturgeon and was knocked unconscious and into the water, the Associated Press reported. The man was rescued by his girlfriend and the crew of a passing vessel. In April a 31-year-old woman riding on a boat with her fiancé was struck by a 3-foot sturgeon. The woman suffered several facial injuries and fractures, needed numerous stitches to her lips and wrist, had abrasions on her shoulders and fractured her spine.

Gulf sturgeon, which can measure up to 8 feet long and weigh 200 pounds, can jump as high as 8 feet out of the water, the report says.

— Jason Fell