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Posted In: Fishing, James River

Sturgeon tours offer a glimpse of ‘living dinosaurs’

Andy Thompson

@richmondoutside
August 29, 2014 10:02am
Balazik (left) with an Atlantic sturgeon netted last fall in the James.

Balazik (left) with an Atlantic sturgeon netted last fall in the James.

I’m not sure you could find two people that know the tidal James River better than Mike Ostrander and Matt Balazik. Ostrander, owner of Discover The James, offers guided catfishing, eagle watching and history trips on the river. Balazik is a fish biologist with VCU and one of the leading Atlantic sturgeon researchers in the country. I don’t know how you’d begin to estimate the number of hours these two have spent on that stretch of water in their lives.

Next Thursday (Sept. 4th), for the second year in a row, Balazik and Ostrander are teaming up to offer their first sturgeon watching tour of the tidal James. The tours will continue every Thursday evening in September.

Endangered Atlantic sturgeon are living fossils that have been swimming in the waters now known as the James River for 100 million years, and according to Ostrander, “the stretch of river between Westover Plantation and Presquile National Wildlife Refuge is a prime area to see breaching Atlantic sturgeon.”

Balazik’s research over the past decade has shown that the late summer/early fall, as they prepare for their fall spawn, is the best time of year to see them breach (leap completely out of the water). They remain in the James through September and into October.

“(You can) scan the river and watch as these ancient behemoths breach while Dr. Balazik shares information from his research on the sturgeon of the James River,” Ostrander explained. “We are incredibly lucky to have a spawning population of Atlantic sturgeon here on the James River, and this tour is a great way for you and your friends to come out, have an excellent chance at seeing them and learn from the James River’s top sturgeon researcher.”

This 2.5-hour tour will depart from Jordan Point Marina at 5 p.m. and return at approximately 7:30 p.m. You’ll ride aboard the Spirit of the James, a 40-foot, fully covered pontoon boat owned by the James River Association and used as an educational vessel for 1000’s of youths each year. The cost is $55 per person.

Don’t miss this opportunity to see one of the wonders of the James River. Click here to learn more or to book a spot on one of this year’s sturgeon tours.


About Andy Thompson

I was the Outdoors Columnist at the Times-Dispatch from 2007 to 2013, writing twice a week about mountain biking, fishing, hunting, paddling and much more. I live a 1/4 mile from the James River, close enough to see bald eagles soaring over my house on their way to find a meal. Pretty cool, eh?


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