Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
New Improved Missouri River Crosstraining
Midwest Region, September 1, 2009
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Darby Niswonger of MDC is thrilled to capture her first chestnut lamprey during a crosstraining exercise with crews from Columbia FWCO.
Darby Niswonger of MDC is thrilled to capture her first chestnut lamprey during a crosstraining exercise with crews from Columbia FWCO. - Photo Credit: n/a
Zach Colvin (left) and Marc Miller (right) of MDC set a mini-fyke net in a small creek near Miami, MO.
Zach Colvin (left) and Marc Miller (right) of MDC set a mini-fyke net in a small creek near Miami, MO. - Photo Credit: n/a

Members of the Pallid Sturgeon Population Assesment & Monitoring project decided to implement a new crosstraining strategy for 2009.  Experiences from years past have been frustrating at times for both the attendees and organizers.  Due to the large size of the group it has often been difficult to get and keep everyone’s attention on the gear deployment demonstrations.  This year, instead of a huge group of people getting together and standing on a sandbar somewhere in the Missouri River basin to watch others fish, it was decided that the trainings needed to be a little more intimate.  Members of each team would meet with another agency and spend the day working side-by-side to learn nuances of deploying gear in a specific segment of the Missouri River. 

Andy Plauck and Patty Herman got the chance to spend the day with a crew from Missouri Department of Conservation – Chillicothe (MDC).  We trammel netted and set mini-fyke nets on a bend in Segment 10 near Miami, MO, about 40 miles upstream of our sampling reach.  The weather was perfect and we had a great time working together and catching up.  We discussed the finer points of getting trammel nets off of snags and setting mini-fykes from the boat vs. hand deployment.  We also chatted about trotlining efforts for the fall and wild pallid sturgeon captures.  A few weeks later, Darby Niswonger (crew leader from MDC) came down to trammel net and pull mini-fykes from a couple of bends near Hermann, MO.  Darby was incredibly enthusiastic and a great addition to our two crews on the water that day.  She was especially excited to capture her first chestnut lamprey!  She also identified a pallid sturgeon while drifting trammel nets with the other crew.  Though it was a long, hard and muddy day, Darby’s enthusiasm and participation never waned.  In the 10 hours we spent together, all aspects of the program were analyzed, argued and joked about.

While MDC crews sample a very similar river to our own, we also wanted an opportunity to crosstrain with crews from the upper Missouri River.  Dane Shuman, a USFWS fish biologist who works on the Missouri between the two lowermost reservoirs (commonly called the Fort Randall Reach) came down for a day of trawling.  Dane’s first observation was size difference between the river where he works and ours in the lower portion of the river.  He was also amused at the silver carp flying out of the water and the young of year sturgeon during our first trawl run.  Sturgeon don’t successfully spawn in his reach of river, since their eggs fall out into a reservoir with many predators.  We shared a few war stories about trawling on the Big Muddy and talked about different ways to rig trawls and retrieve snagged nets.  Overall, this information sharing was a great experience for everyone.  We hope to get up and sample with some of the other crews next to see more of the river and learn from our peers in other states.


Though we all work from the same playbook (the MO River Standard Operating Procedure and PSA protocol), each crew deploys and retrieves gear in a slightly different manner than the others - as an artifact of the extremely variable conditions found throughout the basin.  These smaller crosstraining exchanges have proven to be a great improvement from years past.  These events give crews a chance to get know one another better, discuss equipment and boat modifications and even to debate current sampling methods for monitoring pallid sturgeon.  Partnering with other agencies is an important component of the Pallid Sturgeon Population Assessment Program, as well as the Fisheries Program’s Vision for the Future.

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