RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) — Matt Balazik has been looking for sturgeon in the James for eight years. While he and his team has found adults, they hadn’t found any babies.

That’s until this year!

They’ve found 148 (as of Nov. 12) so far, and the number keeps growing. It’s a thrilling time for the scientists at VCU’s Rice River Center.

“It’s been very encouraging. After going out all those times and catching nothing, it’s been rewarding to start to see these fish at this stage.”

This is a big step in the restoration of the once dominant fish in the tidal James. While adults have been spotted in the River, there have been no babies found until this year.

But evidence of spawning is huge news for a species that researchers are attempting to bring back to the James after overfishing and almost removed the native fish from the James.

Balazik isn’t sure why the fish successfully spawned this year, although he thinks the heavy rain and high water levels could have scoured silt from the river bottom, exposing the rocks below. Sturgeon need rocky river bottoms in order to spawn.

The goal was to get sturgeon to spawn in the James. Maybe it worked?