A River Full of Life
BY BILL LAMOREUX, LA CROSSE FWCO
Whether it’s netting or electrofishing, fisheries crews come across many amazing creatures in the search for Asian carp. Never expect a dull day working in the fisheries field. The river always seems to amaze and impress. The variety of life is what keeps the job interesting. One day you might have close to 40 turtles in a mini fyke net, and the very next net has over 5,000 one-inch long baby bluegills. Some fish have such bright coloration, one would think only exists in the Amazon or coral reef.
Mississippi River. Credit: USFWS
Turtles and snakes are a common occurrence when sampling for fish in the shallow backwaters. The red ear, map and painted turtles provide some safe entertainment.
The snapping turtles on the other hand, make you diligent of where your fingers are at all times. Just last week we had set a larger fyke net in the backwaters of Pool 19. With larger fykes you target bigger fish, but also bigger turtles. When we pulled the net in it was quickly apparent that we had very few fish, but multiple large snapping turtles. In general snapping turtles don’t like to be bothered. One of them in this net was the biggest I’d ever seen and he had the attitude to match. After some careful planning we safely got him and his buddies out and back home in the river.
Here are a few very interesting facts about the Mississippi River and its watershed sourced from the National Park Service website. http://www.nps.gov/miss/riverfacts.htm
a "photo bombing" Snapping Turtle! on the bank of the Mississippi River. Credit: USFWS
River. Credit: USFWS
• At least 260 species of fish, 25% of all fish species in North America
• Forty percent of the nation's migratory waterfowl use the river corridor during their Spring and Fall migration
• Sixty percent of all North American birds (326 species) use the Mississippi River Basin as their migratory flyway
• From Cairo, Illinois upstream to Lake Itasca there are 38 documented species of mussel. On the Lower Mississippi, there may be as many as 60 species of mussel
• The Upper Mississippi is host to more than 50 mammal species
• At least 145 species of amphibians and reptiles inhabit the Upper Mississippi River environs.
Definitely FULL of LIFE!Warmouth a member of the sunfish family reside in the Mississippi River. Credit: Katie Lieder