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A Silver Lining to the 2007 Missouri River Flood
Midwest Region, June 29, 2007
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Sidelined by a May flood on the Missouri River, Habitat Assessment and Monitoring Program (HAMP) swung into action during June.  As flood waters receded, HAMP team members put in long days to complete required fish sampling.  By the end of June, HAMP had completed trawling on all 18 selected river bends. 

 

Although the flood delayed sampling, it also presented a unique opportunity to study impacts of high water on fish populations.  During the past two seasons (2005-2006) of HAMP sampling, low water conditions prevailed.  Comparing 2007 data with previous seasons’ data should provide interesting insights into effects of water levels on fish.  High water in June made sampling difficult, but also allowed us to sample habitats which are inaccessible under normal conditions. 

 

The HAMP project was designed to examine shallow water habitats and the fish that reside in these habitats.  Therefore the focus is on small bodied fish and young-of-year fish which utilize shallow water.  We are especially interested in seeing how this year’s flood affected spawning of Missouri River fishes.  Because reproduction of most riverine fishes is influenced by water levels, we may see improved spawning success this year.  Early anecdotal evidence for this season suggests that many species had successful and substantial spawns.  Young-of-year catfish, freshwater drum, goldeye, gizzard shad, and Asian carp are present in large numbers this year.  We have also been encouraged by the capture of several young-of-year paddlefish and shovelnose sturgeon.  The full effects of the flood will be found when this year’s data are analyzed and compared to past years.

 

Most people focus on the negative aspects of flooding.  Many see annual spring flooding as a destructive force that damages infrastructure and homes.  But floods also serve an important natural purpose.  For many wildlife species, spring floods are a sign of a new year and better conditions ahead.  Floods recharge ground water, replenish nutrient rich top soil, and wipe away the old to make way of the new.  For many fish, floods provide an abundant source of prey as terrestrial vegetation is inundated.  Floods also submerge terrestrial vegetation that is used as a spawning substrate and provides cover for newly hatched fish.

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



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