Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 5 a.m.
Sturgeons are big, ugly fish that look like something a dinosaur crapped out a few million years ago that never properly evolved. Some can top 200 pounds and grow up to seven feet in length, yet they have no internal skeleton and are covered with razor-sharp scutes. And though they're not known for attacking humans, they're quiet capable of inflicting serious injuries to unsuspecting boaters.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Tuesday reported that Brianne Megargel, a 32-year-old woman, was knocked unconscious and flung from a boat after one of these armor-plated beasts sprung from the Suwannee River in the northern part of the state.
While a woman being knocked out by a hideous flying fish sounds hilarious, Karen Parker of FWC says leaping sturgeon are a serious problem on the river and have injured at least 30 people since 2006.
"People find it humorous until they've seen someone that's actually been hit by a sturgeon," Parker says. "They're armor-plated fish."
In 2006, nine people were injured by sturgeon, including one victim Parker described as suffering "horrific facial injuries" that required tens of thousands of dollars in reconstructive surgery.
The most recent incident marks the second sturgeon-related injury reported this year. The victim's husband dove into the water to rescue her while their 10-year-old son took control of the boat. She was helicoptered to a hospital in Gainesville.
The million-dollar question is whether oncoming boats are prompting the fish to jump out of the way or if it's purely bad timing. It's likely the latter.
Parker says the incidents aren't attacks, as sturgeon break water all the time. There doesn't seem to be a correlation between boat traffic and jumping fish.