Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Weapons Arsenal at Columbia Claims 16,000 Sturgeon
Midwest Region, June 30, 2007
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The Columbia Fishery Resources Office has implemented a weapons arsenal of over a dozen guns since 2006. Floy tagging guns, used to put a price tag on your suit or alternatively on a fish, have been used to tag sturgeon for many years now on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

The Corps of Engineers is providing tags for all the state and federal crews working on the Lower Missouri River through pallid sturgeon recovery programs. The tags have an individual code indicating where the fish originated and tags are now supplemented with an additional fin clip to gauge tag loss.

Through tagging efforts, we hope to develop a population model for shovelnose sturgeon. Although the endangered pallid sturgeon is the focus of the Corps’s study, their rarity makes it necessary to look to the more common shovelnose as a surrogate. The model will help biologists evaluate population home ranges, harvest rates as well as individual growth and survival.

The sturgeon exist throughout a web of waterways including the Missouri, Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, Arkansas and many other small tributaries. Tagging of shovelnose has been occurring since the 1970’s when the first comprehensive survey of these fish on the Lower Missouri River occurred by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).

MDC has been monitoring and tagging fish with over 17,000 fish now tagged through their monitoring efforts in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Through their efforts a tag was discovered in a fish that was marked within the same river over 20 years ago. Other agencies including the Open River Field Station on the Lower Mississippi, LTRM on the Middle Mississippi, and research efforts at Southern Illinois University have all tagged shovelnose at some point in time to one degree or another.

Columbia FRO staff already tagged over 16,000 in the last two years and additional crews with the States of Nebraska, Missouri and South Dakota have tagged more than 30,000 shovelnose. Despite the number of fish tagged recaptures are less than 1% around Columbia.

It will take a substantial amount of tagged fish coupled with a continued extensive monitoring effort to begin to model sturgeon populations. Staff hope to begin to delve into the mystery of these prehistoric fishes’ movements and understand what will be needed in terms of propagation or wild recruitment of the pallid sturgeon as we move towards recovery.

Contact Info: Larry Dean, 612-713-5312, Larry_Dean@fws.gov
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