The Nechako River system, home to the Nechako white sturgeon, has played a major role in the history and development of north central British Columbia, and continues to be important to this part of the province for many reasons. It has unique ecological attributes, supports First Nations and recreational fisheries, and provides water for agricultural purposes, power generation, and various outdoor recreational activities.
The group of fish known as Nechako white sturgeon includes all white sturgeon found in the Nechako watershed. The range (or distribution) of Nechako white sturgeon is defined as upstream of the confluence of the Nechako and Fraser rivers at Prince George. The Nechako stock also includes sturgeon living in the Stuart and Nautley rivers and their complex series of lakes. In the colder winter months, the fish spend their time in deep river pools and large lakes. In springtime, when water temperatures rise, mature adults may travel many miles to gather together at spawning grounds. In the summer months, adults spend most of their time in large pools in the main channels, and in feeding areas such as slower backwater and below rapids. Young sturgeon frequently move between the main channel and adjacent sloughs or back eddies. However, travel patterns of Nechako white sturgeon also suggest they follow the migration routes of one of their main sources of food, salmon.
White sturgeon spawn in late spring and early summer. It is believed that water temperature is a major factor in determining when spawning takes place; spawning is triggered by an increase in spring water temperatures. White sturgeon are also thought to prefer spawning sites with a fast current and rocky bottom. However, in 2004, white sturgeon discovered spawning in the Nechako were making use of a site where water was deeper (2 metres) and slower moving (2 metres/second). Rocks on the bottom were of the type called “cobble” (about softball size).