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Big Flood Benefits Little Fish
Midwest Region, July 3, 2008
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Corn fields and parking lots are not areas we typically sample for fish, but that is exactly where early July found us.  Due to prolonged periods of flooding throughout June and early July we were unable to perform our standard sampling.  However, the high water presented us with a unique opportunity to examine the fish community utilizing the floodplain.  Over a three day period from June 29th to July 2nd, we used a push trawl to sample fish on the Missouri River floodplain.  The push trawl, originally designed for sampling shallow areas on mainstem Missouri River, was quite effective on the floodplain.  After a short time of churning through the mud and dodging cottonwoods and willows we had collected thousands of fish.  The majority of the samples were composed of young-of-year fish.  Although we collected many different species, the most common fish were the invasive bighead and silver carps. 

 

Research indicates that floodplain connectivity is important for the health of river ecosystems.  Floodplains provide food, nutrients, and habitat for spawning and rearing.  Man made changes to rivers across the world have reduced or eliminated floodplain habitat in many instances.  Reduction of floodplain habitat has led to declines in many fish species.  Our simple study once again underscores the importance of floodplains.  The shallow, cover laden, slack water areas we sampled on Missouri River floodplain were ideally suited for young-of-year fish habitat.  Our data also demonstrate the abundance of invasive Asian carp which, unfortunately, also utilize floodplains.  The presence of Asian carp can confound habitat restoration efforts because these invasive species could also benefit.  A greater understanding of how and when fish utilize floodplains will aid biologists and engineers when making decisions regarding habitat modifications. 

 

This meets objective Objective 2.3 of the Fisheries Vision Statement: Maintain diverse, self-sustaining fish and other aquatic resource populations.   

 

Contact Info: Colby Wrasse, 573-234-2132 x30, colby_wrasse@fws.gov



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