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Wandering Fish of the Missouri River
Midwest Region, February 7, 2012
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Zach Brock with a rainbow trout caught from the Missouri River.
Zach Brock with a rainbow trout caught from the Missouri River. - Photo Credit: Colby Wrasse
Hilary Meyer with a northern pike caught from the Missouri River.
Hilary Meyer with a northern pike caught from the Missouri River. - Photo Credit: Colby Wrasse

Part of the joy of sampling fish on the Missouri River is that you never know what you might catch. Catching pallid sturgeon, lake sturgeon and big catfish is certainly fun, but sometimes it’s those oddball fish that generate the most interest. Over the past couple weeks we have collected a few species that are extremely rare in the portion of the lower Missouri River which we sample.

 

In late January, we collected a rainbow trout from the Missouri River near Columbia, Missouri. The fish measured nearly 23 inches and weighed over 4 pounds. This was the first rainbow trout our office has ever collected from the Missouri River. In fact, Pfiieger’s The Fishes of Missouri has no records of rainbow trout from the Missouri portion of the Missouri River. Rainbow trout usually inhabit cool, clear water, so it was quite a surprise to find one in The Big Muddy. Rainbow trout are commonly stocked in streams and lakes of the Midwest and can be found in the Upper Basin of the Missouri River. The individual fish we caught may have washed down from the Upper Missouri River, or washed out of a tributary stream.

In early February we collected a northern pike and a white perch from the Missouri River near New Haven, Missouri. The 27 inch northern pike was only the second specimen our office has ever collected from the Missouri River. While northern pike are fairly common in upper portions of the Missouri River, they are rare within the state of Missouri, which lies on the southern edge of the range for this cool water species.

The white perch was also the second such specimen our office has collected from the Missouri River, and the first since 2003. White perch are native to the Atlantic Coast, but were introduced to Nebraska in 1964. These prolific spawners can become invasive and have the potential to displace native species in some bodies of water.

The appearance of “unusual” species in the lower Missouri River this year was predictable. Record flooding in the South Dakota/Nebraska portions of Missouri River during 2011 most certainly displaced many fish downstream. While species like rainbow trout and northern pike can survive the winter months in the lower Missouri River, these species would not fare well during the summer when water temperatures can reach 90° and water clarity can be greatly reduced. Our collection of these species is a reminder of how interconnected our bodies of water are and the great potential for fish to become displaced during floods. The appearance of potentially invasive species like white perch underscores the necessity to take care when introducing non-native species into reservoirs, because these fish many times find their way into our rivers.


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



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