By Jennifer Leigh
A 31-year-old Plant City woman was injured Friday when a sturgeon jumped from a North Florida river and pinned her against the windshield of the boat in which she was a passenger.
April Miller Baker, who suffered broken bones in her face that will require surgery, was resting at home Tuesday, her mother Marcia Kay Miller said.
Baker was injured when a sturgeon – a large fish known for jumping – came out of the water on the Suwannee River near where it meets the Santa Fe River.
The fish jumped just as April's father, John, started to accelerate as they headed south on the Suwannee.
Miller, who was also riding in the boat, said she heard a crash, and “I looked around, and there was just glass going every which way, and April was there, and I could see her, and she blinked a couple of times and then she went down.”
Sturgeon behavior has baffled biologists for years, and it's not known why they jump wildlife officials said. The Gulf sturgeon can grow up to 8 feet in length and weigh up to 200 pounds.
Miller said her daughter doesn't remember what happened.
“She doesn't have memory of getting the boat in the water actually. She's lost quite a bit of memory,” she said.
Baker's parents rushed her to a nearby river resort and called for an ambulance, where paramedics then took her to a Gainesville hospital.
“There was blood all over her,” Miller said.
“Bless his heart, the ambulance driver told me that a few years ago a friend of his wife died from a sturgeon hitting.”
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials said six people have been injured this year in the state by sturgeons jumping from the water.
Miller's injures include broken bones around the eye socket and jaw and through the teeth area. Doctors are waiting for the swelling to go down before determining what kind of surgery she'll need, her mother said.
Conservation commission officials say the sturgeon, a protected species, comes to the Suwannee to spawn. The river is one of the last truly natural habitats for the sturgeon's spawning, they said.
The Suwannee River has the highest concentration of Gulf sturgeon in the state with as many as 14,000 spawning there at a time, conservation commission spokeswoman Karen Parker said.
The best advice to boaters is to go slowly on the Suwannee River, wear a life vest at all times and don't sit on the bow of the boat, Parker said.