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Pallid Sturgeon Captured on the Missouri River
Midwest Region, December 14, 2006
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Columbia FRO biologist Andrew Plauck handles this pallid sturgeon for the second time, as the same fish was captured almost a year before at the same wing dike in the lower Missouri River. 
- FWS photo
Columbia FRO biologist Andrew Plauck handles this pallid sturgeon for the second time, as the same fish was captured almost a year before at the same wing dike in the lower Missouri River.

- FWS photo

- Photo Credit: n/a

Biologists from the Columbia Fishery Resources Office (FRO) got off to a great start to their sturgeon monitoring season.  Every winter we set approximately 30,000 feet of gill and trammel nets on the lower 250 miles of the Missouri River for the Pallid Sturgeon Population Assessment Project.  The unseasonably warm weather during December 2006 provided our field crews to sample the river without the dangerously cold temperatures that are typically associated with winter sampling. 

 

We are very lucky to have added several new technicians in 2006 eager to see their first pallid sturgeon and were more than willing to brave the cold mornings on the river.  As luck would have it, technicians Lee Erickson, Tammy Knecht, and Derek Eisenbrei along with volunteer Chris Clemens were able to see multiple pallid sturgeon in their first week of gillnetting!  In December a total of six pallid sturgeon were captured.

 

One particular pallid sturgeon capture was very memorable.  On the morning of December 14th, a large pallid sturgeon was pulled onto the deck of the boat.  The fish was quickly removed from the net and placed in a holding tank.  Biologist Andy Plauck stated that a pallid about that size was captured very close to this location last year.  A quick scan of the uniquely numbered PIT (passive inductive transponder) tag and a call back to the office proved that statement correct.  Pallid sturgeon #101 was captured in January of 2006 behind the exact same wing dike.  The fish had grown about a half inch and gained over a half pound. Could the recapture of this sturgeon in the exact location and about the same time of year be an indication of a specific habitat preference for pallids?  We feel that ongoing cooperative research with the U.S. Geological Survey in pallid telemetry tracking will confirm some of our observations and suspicions about habitat selection and preference.  With discoveries such as this we hope to increase our understanding of the Missouri River Ecosystem and aid in the recovery of this endangered species.  

 

Unfortunately this fish was of hatchery origin, stocked by the Missouri Department of Conservation in the early 1990’s and therefore could not be used for broodstock.  Field crews all along the Missouri River are actively looking for wild fish for artificial propagation as tool to keep the species around until we can determine how to recover self-sustaining populations and promote natural reproduction.  Hatchery fish cannot be used repeatedly for broodstock to keep from swamping the genetic pool with related fish.  The Columbia FRO anticipates catching some wild pallid sturgeon later this spring for hatchery use.  Our attempts at broodstock collection, in an area of the river that wild pallid sturgeon are the rarest (the lower basin), will continue into the spring.

 

Our efforts to recover the endangered pallid sturgeon fit into the Fisheries Program’s Vision for the Future.  Recovery of endangered species and monitoring other native species’ populations are high priorities for our office.


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



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