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It's What's On the Inside that Counts
Midwest Region, May 3, 2011
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Heather Calkins suturing hybrid striped bass after ultrasonic transmitter implantation. (Photo by Sara Tripp, SIUC)
Heather Calkins suturing hybrid striped bass after ultrasonic transmitter implantation. (Photo by Sara Tripp, SIUC) - Photo Credit: n/a
Andy Plauck with hybrid striped bass. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo by Tammy Knecht)
Andy Plauck with hybrid striped bass. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo by Tammy Knecht) - Photo Credit: n/a

This adage definitely holds truth, especially for a hybrid striped bass with an ultrasonic transmitter. This type of tag is sometimes implanted into the body cavity of a fish where it transmits sound signals at frequencies generally above our range of hearing. Special receivers or hydrophones are used to collect this information. Acoustic telemetry is an important tool in fisheries science to study movement and habitat selection. The surgical process of implanting a transmitter leaves nothing but a slight scar in most cases which may not look much different than the normal wear and tear of riverine living. With little outward evidence, most people unfamiliar with this type of research may be a bit surprised when they find an odd black cylindrical mass while cleaning their catch. Finding one of these tags can definitely raise some curiosity and lead the fisherman on a wild “fish” chase to figure out from where exactly it came. While working on a trotline study on the Osage River, a landowner quizzed us about such a tag. He described his find and even shared a picture from his phone. He picked our brains and the only study we knew that used these tags was a Fish Passage Project by Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC), but their work was on the Mississippi River some 130-plus miles downstream. After talking with researchers from SIUC, we discovered that this fish had in fact been captured and implanted on the Mississippi River near Alton, Illinois. What a cool find! This specific hybrid was implanted with a transmitter November 1, 2010, weighing in at around 4.8 lbs with a length of 21 inches. After traveling over 140 miles, it landed at the end of this fisherman’s pole on the Osage River 150 days later. The Osage fisherman didn’t get a weight, but appeared that the fish had grown 2 inches. Sara Tripp with SIUC told us a similar story of a hybrid caught even farther up the Osage, just below Bagnell Dam! This fish had traveled over 200 miles in a little over a year. Both parents of this hybrid cross are known to migrate upstream in spring to spawn, but now we know just how far they go! This was a great opportunity for us to bridge a gap between landowners and researchers. Not only did the university get data back on a tagged fish, but the landowner also got answers to a curiosity from the Osage River. I think that we got the lion’ share of the reward, however, by connecting with a vested stakeholder and partnering with SIUC. Next time you catch a fish, you never know, it just may be what’s on the inside that counts or at least that tells a fascinating story.


Contact Info: Heather Calkins, 573-445-5001 ext 29, heather_calkins@fws.gov



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