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News on the Pallid Sturgeon Front

Every spring I try to update you on the pallid sturgeon brood stock collection efforts on Nebraska’s Missouri River (e.g. 2015 Pallid Sturgeon Broodstock Collection).  Here is a follow-up, here is why our crews and a host of volunteers put in that effort:

Recovery Efforts Continue with Stocking of Pallid Sturgeon in Missouri River

Posted by: Jerry Kane, August 26, 2015

LINCOLN – More than 2,000 5- to 6-inch pallid sturgeon were stocked in the channelized portion of the Missouri River along Nebraska’s eastern border on Aug. 24. The stocking is part of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s recovery efforts for this federal- and state-listed endangered species.

The pallid sturgeon were stocked in two locations. The first was at the newly-constructed Deer Island shallow-water habitat improvement project near Tekamah (river mile 762.3) in Burt County. Deer Island has more than 100 aces of shallow water and sand bar habitat suitable for small pallid sturgeon. The second site is just north of Rulo (river mile 508.5) in Richardson County in an area where river dikes have been modified to increase habitat diversity. These locations have had few or no previous stockings, and similar-size shovelnose sturgeon have been sampled there.

These pallid sturgeon were products of the Game and Parks’ annual spring effort for the basin-wide Pallid Sturgeon Conservation Augmentation Program. This spring, Game and Parks captured two reproductively-ready female pallid sturgeon and a number of males from the Missouri River. Those fish were transferred to Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery in Yankton, S.D., where the females were spawned in late April and early May. Approximately 49,000 eggs were collected from those females. Four male pallid sturgeon were used to fertilize those eggs, which produced four, genetically-unique family lots. An additional 10,000 fish from these families were stocked throughout the lower Missouri River below the Nebraska border.

If caught while fishing, pallid sturgeon must be released immediately. Identification of pallid sturgeon and shovelnose sturgeon can be difficult. Anglers should always know the distinguishing characteristics of sturgeon before harvesting any sturgeon species. Visit http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/hunting/guides/gamethief-KnowWhatUCaught.asp. If in doubt, anglers always should release the sturgeon unharmed.

Shovelnose sturgeon are a sport fish, although no harvest is allowed on the Missouri River upstream from the mouth of the Big Sioux River.

I do not have pictures from the stocking of pallid sturgeon mentioned in that news release, but here is a shot from a couple, three years ago that will give you a real good idea of the fish that were stocked.

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Capture of brook stock from the wild, spawning in a hatchery and then stocking of the fish produced from those efforts is an important part of the recovery plan for pallid sturgeon on the Missouri River.  However, there was a story in the Omaha World Herald earlier this year that was very good news for pallid sturgeon and ultimately the goal of the recovery efforts, Three Larval-Stage Pallid Sturgeon Prove Species is Spawning in the Wild.

 Please take the time to read that World Herald article.  It does an excellent job of describing the enormity of the efforts being made to recover pallid sturgeon in the Missouri River and it does an excellent job of describing the enormity of capturing 3 little pallid sturgeon in all of that river!  Little, baby pallid sturgeon that would have looked a lot like this:
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Or for better perspective, here is what a whole tank of larval pallid sturgeon look like in a fish hatchery:
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I know it does not seem like much, only 3 little pallid sturgeon in the Missouri River.  But, when you stop to consider how small those fish are and the incredible odds of sampling them from the muddy Mo, maybe collecting 3 of those fish is far more significant than what we might think!  Certainly, habitat conditions and water regimes on much of our Missouri River are far from being favorable for pallid sturgeon and other big river fish species and there is much work yet to be done.  But, even a little bit of good news sure is encouraging!  “Excellent job” to ALL involved!

About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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