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Fish, Fish Everywhere; 300K and Counting
Midwest Region, March 8, 2010
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Cliff Wilson works up small catfish while conducting field work on the Lower Missouri River for HAMP. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
Cliff Wilson works up small catfish while conducting field work on the Lower Missouri River for HAMP. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo) - Photo Credit: n/a
Young-of-the-year sturgeon captured in the lower Missouri River while sampling for HAMP. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
Young-of-the-year sturgeon captured in the lower Missouri River while sampling for HAMP. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo) - Photo Credit: n/a

Crews from the Columbia FWCO Habitat Assessment and Monitoring Program (HAMP) have captured 296,899 fish since the inception of the program in 2005.  If all these fish captured were placed end to end they would stretch 9.86 miles long. 

Over a third of these fish were captured during the 2007 field season when 109,043 fish were handled.  The majority of these fish are small young-of-the-year (YOY); the fish that the project is intended to answer questions about. 

Sturgeon and native large river chub species are of particular interest to this program.   Sixty five pallid sturgeon, 9,417 shovelnose sturgeon and 1,139 unidentified (YOY) sturgeon have been captured. 

This constitutes one of the largest YOY sturgeon data sets from the Missouri River.  Native chubs are thought to be important prey of the endangered pallid sturgeon and we have captured 59,838 to date. 

2007 was a banner year for YOY fish and this lead to the highest annual catch for the program to date.  Over a third (37,297 to be exact) of the 2007 catch was YOY catfish.  These catches combined with high temperatures and humidity lead to some very exhausted and sore fingered field personnel. 

The HAMP was created to evaluate shallow water habitat in the channelized portion of the Missouri River.  Shallow, slow moving areas were once abundant and have largely been lost due to changes to the river for navigation and flood control. 

This program’s primary objective is to determine habitat use of YOY and small bodied fishes as it relates to SHW to guide habitat restoration efforts by the Army Corps of Engineers.   Along with capturing a lot of fish, HAMP crews have collected depth, water velocity and substrate information, and have classified habitats associated with these fish. 

For example, they record whether a sample was collected in association with a dike, whether the dike was notched, whether there was a sandbar associated with the sample, and whether large woody debris or aquatic vegetation was present. 

This information will allow identification of habitat types and other measurable physical features that are associated with a species or group of fishes so that appropriate habitat can be created.

The dynamic and complex nature of large river ecosystems make it difficult to understand all the important factors that drive fish year class strength and fish communities.  As HAMP collects more data in the future, this substantial data base will improve our understanding of large river ecosystems, restoration efforts and the needs of the species that call the river home.


Contact Info: Andrew Starostka, 5732342132 x119, andy_starostka@fws.gov



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