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Giant sturgeons spotted in the James downtown

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Photo courtesy of Richmond Times-Dispatch

By: Rex Springston and Andy Thompson
Richmond Times-Dispatch

A mild-mannered river monster has returned to downtown Richmond.

Atlantic sturgeons, giant fish that once swam with dinosaurs, have been gathering this week in the James River by the Mayo Bridge.

One expert says the area just upstream of the bridge's southern end — where the rapids, or falls, end and the tidal James begins — may be the long-sought spawning area of the mysterious fish.

“That's where I believe the magic is happening," said Virginia Commonwealth University researcher Matt Balazik. "I think (spawning) is all mostly happening at the fall line.”

A few people, including Balazik, have seen a few sturgeons in that area since 2009. And there have been other, hard-to-verify reports in recent years.

But the sightings seemed to peak this week as witnesses reported seeing three to four sturgeons estimated at 6 to 7 feet long in the clear water on Sunday just before dusk, and two fish, including an estimated 6-footer, about the same time Monday.

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