Shovelnose Sturgeon

How to Identify Sturgeon

There are three species of sturgeon in Missouri. The pallid and lake sturgeon are endangered and need to be protected. Use the information below to learn the key differences so you can always return pallid and lake sturgeon unharmed to the water immediately.  

Shovelnose sturgeon

Shovelnose sturgeon side view
Shovelnose sturgeon, Scaphirhynchus platorynchus
Lance Merry


Shovelnose sturgeon illustration
Rebecca Haefner
  • Reddish-brown or buff color
  • Found throughout Missouri and Mississippi rivers
  • Rarely exceeds 30 inches in length or 5 pounds
  • Bases of barbels form a straight line
  • Thin scale-like plates on belly
  • Long slender filament on tip of tail, if not broken off
  • Length from snout to barbels is the same as barbels to mouth
  • Bases of barbels in a straight line; inner two barbels are long and thick
  • Belly with scale-like plates

Pallid sturgeon (Endangered)

Pallid sturgeon side view
Pallid sturgeon, Scaphirhynchus albus
Lance Merry


Pallid sturgeon illustration
Rebecca Haefner

If caught, return unharmed to water immediately.

  • Grayish-white color
  • Found in the Missouri River and in the Mississippi downstream from the mouth of the Illinois River
  • May exceed 30 inches in length and reach 10 pounds or more
  • Bases of barbels form a crescent
  • Skin-like scaleless belly
  • Bases of barbels form a crescent; inner two barbels are short and thin
  • The length from the tip of the snout to the barbels is greater than from the barbels to the mouth
  • Belly without scale-like plates

Lake Sturgeon (Endangered)

Lake sturgeon side view
Lake sturgeon, Acipenser fulvescens
Lance Merry


If caught, return unharmed to water immediately.

lake sturgeon illustration
Rebecca Haefner
  • Sides and back range from dark slate to light brown or yellowish-olive; white belly
  • Found throughout Missouri and Mississippi rivers
  • May reach 8 feet in length and more than 300 pounds
  • Cone-shaped snout
  • Barbels not fringed
  • Only 2 lobes on lower lip
  • Barbels near mouth are smooth, not fringed
  • Short, round snout
  • Lips with two lobes

Check the Code

This is NOT a legal document. Regulations are subject to revision during the current year.
Refer to the Wildlife Code.