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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Casting a Wide (Gill) Net

Region 3, March 22, 2013

Each year of gill netting on the Missouri River presents challenges. In past years, flooding, ice flows, or very warm temperatures have hindered progress.

This season, the extremely low water levels threw us a curveball. The low water left many boat ramps unusable or hazardous to use, which led to longer travel times to sample sites. Also, accessing many of the habitats we normally sample proved trying at the time.

Despite these obstacles, by March we had completed standard gill netting for the Pallid Sturgeon Population Assessment Project. We deployed 250 gill nets, equaling more than 9 miles of net, and captured 19 pallid sturgeon.

Most of the pallid sturgeon we collected were adult size, with 15 of the pallid sturgeon measuring greater than 30 inches. We also captured 6 lake sturgeon, with the largest weighing over 20 pounds. Other species of interest included shovelnose sturgeon (more than 3,000 individuals) and blue sucker (more than 100 individuals).

The gill net effort is part of the larger Pallid Sturgeon Population Assessment Project which uses a suite of gears to sample pallid sturgeon and the fish community of the Missouri River.

This is the 11th year we have deployed gill nets for this long term monitoring project. Our 2013 pallid sturgeon total for gill nets represents the second highest annual total we have recorded. Although we commonly collect hatchery reared (stocked) pallid sturgeon, truly wild pallid sturgeon remain exceedingly rare in our samples.

 

 

Contact Info: Larry Dean, 612-713-5312, Larry_Dean@fws.gov