Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
From River to Raceway: One Pallid’s Journey
Midwest Region, April 1, 2008
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Colby Wrasse with the large wild pallid caught near the I-70 bridge on the Missouri River.   Photo by Patty Herman.
Colby Wrasse with the large wild pallid caught near the I-70 bridge on the Missouri River. Photo by Patty Herman. - Photo Credit: n/a

It started off as a foggy grey morning. The cold river water soaked through our cotton gloves as we began to pull the first trotline of the day. The line had the usual suspects; blue catfish, shovelnose sturgeon – then, suddenly, a ghostly shimmer broke the surface of the water. “Wow! We got a big one!” “It’s a pallid! Quick, get it in the boat!” rang out in the still morning air. In a flash, the hook was removed from its’ mouth and a holding tub was set up for the impressive fish. The rest of the line was quickly pulled in and a frenzy of activity broke out on the boat. The 29 inch pallid sturgeon was checked for coded wire tags, microchips and any other obvious hatchery markings. None were found. As the sturgeon was being measured and weighed, phone calls were placed to get the ball rolling. This fish was going to the hatchery!

We still had nine more trotlines to pull – and no time to waste. With the broodstock pallid on board, we set off to finish our work. Luckily, the second line had few fish on it and was processed very fast. However, the third and fourth trotlines slowed our progress. A total of four more pallid sturgeon and a large hybrid (pallid x shovelnose) sturgeon were caught on those lines! Finally, we managed to pull all the trotlines and work up our catch. All the while, tending to the large wild pallid in the holding tank.

By the time we made it back to the boat ramp, the fog had burned off and a beautiful spring day was unfolding. Larry Steding, of Missouri Department of Conservation’s Blind Pony State Fish Hatchery met us at the ramp with a hauling tank. A quick check of temperatures and the addition of therapeutants to the hauling tank water was performed before the transfer was made. Our broodstock fish was on her first big adventure over land. Once at the hatchery, she was transferred to a raceway and allowed to acclimate for a few days. Endoscopy was performed and determined that she was female but not quite ready to spawn this year. Just a week after her ordeal began, she was hauled back to the river from the hatchery and released at the same spot from which she was caught.           

Because “wild” fish are used as broodstock in the fish hatcheries as part of a national recovery effort for pallid sturgeon, large unmarked pallid sturgeon are carefully transported to the nearest hatchery.  There is a chance of the fish outgrowing or expelling the hatchery identification marks.  Therefore, genetic analysis is used to confirm the fish’s lineage or origin. Each fish is tested for viability using ultrasound and endoscopy. If the fish is ready to spawn, it is transferred to one of the participating national fish hatcheries. As in this case, if the fish is not ready to spawn it is returned to the origin of capture as quickly as possible. The collection of broodstock pallid sturgeon allows us to meet our Aquatic Species Conservation and Management objective of recovering fish and other aquatic resource populations protected under the Endangered Species Act.

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