Scaphirhynchus Platorynchus



River, Sandbanks

5 - 11 pounds

19" - 34"

Shovelnose Sturgeon

Also Known As: Hackleback, Switchtail, Sand Sturgeon

Shovelnose Sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus Platorynchus) Fish Description

The Shovelnose Sturgeon may have some semblance to a catfish. But they’re definitely not related! Catfishes don’t have scales; the Shovelnose Sturgeon has! The Shovelnose Sturgeon has bony scutes that line up its back and sides. It also has white barbels similar to the White Catfish but those are attached underneath its rostrum. From the side, the Shovelnose Sturgeon also has a longer and broader snout whereas the Catfish has a blunt one.

One way to tell them apart also is that the Shovelnose Sturgeon has a filament only on the upper lobe of its tailfin. They also have scales on their bellies, unlike catfish that have no scales at all. Normally, these Shovelnose Sturgeons come in light brown but with white underbellies.


Diet and Size

Shovelnose Sturgeons usually eat aquatic insects such as mayflies. They eat other kinds of flies as well such as caddisflies and Diptera flies (otherwise known as the true flies). Shovelnose Sturgeons are also known to be bottom feeders. They stick their nose in the sand and feast on crustaceans, worms, and small fishes.

Shovelnose Sturgeons on average are 19.7 to 33.5 inches long and weigh 5.5 lbs. However, there are some Shovelnose Sturgeons that can reach up to 39.4 inches in length and weigh as heavy as 10.6 lbs.


Interesting Facts 

  • Be careful when handling a Shovelnose Sturgeon. They have bony scales that can cut through your skin.
    • Best to wear some gloves while handling them.
  • Shovelnose Sturgeons have a mutual relationship with Hickorynut Mussels. They are the only species capable of hosting Hickorynut Mussels.
  • Shovelnose Sturgeons can live up to 14 years.
  • It takes a while for Shovelnose Sturgeons to reproduce which is why they’re often vulnerable to overfishing.
  • Shovelnose Sturgeons and their cousins are often farmed for their caviar.
  • They are considered ancient fish due to their appearance.
  • Shovelnose Sturgeons are anadromous. They migrate to freshwater areas to lay eggs.
  • They make croaking sounds like a Channel Catfish.


Fishing Techniques: How to Fish for a Shovelnose Sturgeon

When catching a Shovelnose Sturgeon, people often try the typical Sturgeon bait to lure them. That’s often-using Lampreys and Smelts. As for the equipment, people use 3 oz weights to keep the bait in the water. As for the hook, some recommend using an eagle claw hook with a worm threaded through.

Usually, the Shovelnose Sturgeon has a preference for waters with strong currents. Upon being caught, however, many anglers notice that they often either play dead or don’t struggle at all. This may be a defense mechanism on their part to discourage their predator from eating them. 

Because of the strong currents, some people can actually use the currents to bring the Shovelnose Sturgeon to them. Some use nets to have the current bring the fish to them. Or if there are strong storms and heavy rains, some can just pick them off the sandy banks.


Habitat and Distribution

Shovelnose Sturgeons usually stay in rivers that have strong currents. At times, they even can end up washed up on a sandbank near the river. They like places with a lot of sand and gravel which tells them that there are crustaceans to dig up. However, Shovelnose Sturgeons don’t seem to stay in one place. There is a high number count in the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.