Down the Wide Missouri

With access to the river limited by high water downstream of Gavins Point Dam, our collaborators with Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) traveled downstream to help search the Missouri River for telemetered pallid sturgeon from St. Joseph to St. Charles, MO. With four boats tracking in tandem, crews searched 420 river miles on six days between June 15 and June 23, 2011.

With the spawning season behind us and the intensive Comprehensive Sturgeon Research Project (CSRP) telemetry tracking effort completed, the tracking crews change their focus from following reproductive adults and locating spawning sites to characterizing post-spawn and non-reproductive habitat of pallid sturgeon.  It is a big river and sturgeon can move long distances between seasons.  The entire length of the Lower Missouri River must be searched repeatedly to locate individual fish.  This extensive systematic tracking strategy is used throughout the year to describe seasonal patterns of movement and locate important habitats.  At least once a month a consolidated effort is made to track the Missouri River from Gavins Point Dam to the Missouri and Mississippi river confluence.  The goal is to find as many tagged sturgeon as quickly and efficiently as possible to create a snapshot of where the sturgeon are during that short period of time.  We’ve come to call this effort a river sweep.  Under conditions of average to low flows and all 6 boats with crews available, the 811 river miles can be covered in a week.  however, when the river is high or stormy weather and ice are present, a river sweep can take two weeks if not longer.

Due to high water the June 2011 river sweep was shortened. The abbreviated river sweep resulted in locating 23 different telemetered pallid sturgeon in 420 river miles. The busiest day was June 22 when 8 individual pallid sturgeon were located in a 35 mile stretch downstream of Jefferson City, Missouri.

One fish located, PLS06-015, has been tracked continuously by CSRP since October 2, 2006.  Over the nearly five years, PLS06-015 has been located as far upriver as river mile 650 and as far downriver as river mile 100.  Another fish initially telemetered in 2006 and located during the June 2011 river sweep was PLS06-003.  Although absent from the telemetry study for 3 years due to an expired transmitter battery, PLS06-003 re-entered the study in March 2010 when she was captured a mere 1.2 miles from her last telemetry location in February 2007.  In addition to the two fish from 2006, fish captured and implanted in other years were represented as well, including: 1 initially telemetered in 2007, 4 initially telemetered in 2008, 4 initially telemetered in 2009, 4 initially telemetered in 2010, and 8 of which were tagged in 2011.

Two pallid sturgeon initially telemetered in 2006 exhibit very different movement patterns over the last five years. PLS06-015, a male, has covered hundreds of miles and even explored the Osage River, a tributary downstream of Jefferson City, Missouri. PLS06-003, a female, appears to have stayed relatively stationary. However, she, too, could have wandered after her original transmitter battery expired and her movements would have gone undetected. Where was she when we weren't looking?

 Completed with contributions by Aaron DeLonay.

About Emily Pherigo

Emily is no longer with the Comprehensive Sturgeon Research Project. When she was here, she was a biologist contracted to the Comprehensive Sturgeon Research Project. Most of her time was spent at a computer performing QA/QC on data or updating figures and graphs most used by Aaron DeLonay. However, she occasionally made it to the river, where she enjoyed seeing pallid sturgeon and was reminded why she entered the natural resources field.
This entry was posted in River Sweep, Telemetry tracking. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Down the Wide Missouri

  1. Pingback: River Sweep May 21 – 29, 2012 | Comprehensive Sturgeon Research Project