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Identifying sturgeon spawning locations through back-calculations of drift

July 14, 2016

Unfavorable spawning habitat conditions have been identified as a potential limiting factor for recovery of the endangered pallid sturgeon on the Missouri River and its tributaries. After successful spawning, incubation, and hatching, sturgeon free embryos passively drift downstream and are sometimes captured by sampling crews. While spawning habitat has been identified at time of spawning through field investigations, captured pallid and shovelnose (used as a surrogate species) sturgeon free embryos in the Missouri River often do not come from genetically-known telemetered fish and may be useful to identify additional areas of spawning habitat. We developed a routing model to identify potential spawning locations for captured free embryos of known age based on channel velocity estimates. To estimate velocity we compared use of at-a-station hydraulic geometry relations to empirical estimates of velocity form a 15-year archive of hydroacoustic measurements on the Missouri River.