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Missouri River Most Wanted
Midwest Region, March 27, 2012
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Chris Egbert (l - volunteer) and Dr. Aaron Delonay (r - USGS) work together to surgically remove a telemetry tag and datalogger from a pallid sturgeon recaptured at the confluence of the Osage and Missouri rivers.
Chris Egbert (l - volunteer) and Dr. Aaron Delonay (r - USGS) work together to surgically remove a telemetry tag and datalogger from a pallid sturgeon recaptured at the confluence of the Osage and Missouri rivers. - Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Chris Egbert, USFWS Volunteer

The weather across the nation has been unusually warm this year and mid-Missouri has been no exception. With consecutive days of record setting highs and record warm lows, March 2012 went down in the record books as the warmest in recorded history. The Missouri River was also feeling the effects of the warm air temps and responded in kind with rapidly warming water temperatures. On March 1st, water temperatures near Jefferson City were approximately 45 degrees (F) and by the 31st, the water temperatures were 65 degrees. That’s a 20 degree increase in water temperatures in one month! In comparison, water temperatures didn’t reach 65 degrees until mid-May in 2011.

 

On the surface, warm water temps in March may not seem like a problem. After all, warm water is nice to work (or play) in and there is less chance of hypothermia should one “go in the drink.” However, from a fish perspective, extremely warm water temperatures early in the year may confuse spawning cues. Years of pallid sturgeon research have led us to believe that water temperatures may play an integral role in cuing spawning behaviors. Usually peak spawning for pallid sturgeon occurs in mid-April through May in water temperatures ranging between 60 degrees and 72 degrees (F). We had already met that temperature range in the Missouri River and exceeded our hauling temperature threshold for transporting pallid sturgeon to the hatcheries!

Luckily, a rainfall event in western Missouri had the Osage River roaring with cold water from the overflowing reservoirs. In late March, we began a broodstock collection effort in earnest at the Osage-Missouri River confluence and at Lock and Dam #1 on the Osage River. While we haven’t transported a pallid sturgeon to the hatchery since early February, we did recapture a “Most Wanted” fish. On a trotline at the confluence, we recaptured a hatchery pallid sturgeon that had been implanted with a telemetry tag and data logger in 2010. With the help of volunteers, we were able to transfer the pallid sturgeon to Aaron Delonay, U.S. Geological Survey, for surgical removal of the tags. Data from these tags will provide valuable information as to the whereabouts of this fish for the last two years!

There is never a dull moment on the Missouri River - from droughts to floods to ice and even warm water, our fish community faces challenges at every bend in the river. It will be interesting to see how the entire fish community of the Missouri River responds to the warm temperatures this year. We will keep our hands in the water and on our keyboards to keep you up to date on what is happening out there.


Contact Info: Patricia Herman, 573-234-2132 x170, Patricia_Herman@fws.gov



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