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Fisheries Division - Missouri River Program

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Flickr Photo Gallery (pictures) | Glossary of Terms

Goal:  The goal is to restore, recover, protect, and maintain the diversity of Missouri River habitats, resources, and ecosystem functions so present and future generations can enjoy consumptive and non-consumptive outdoor recreational opportunities.

What we do:

Objective 1.  Restore terrestrial and aquatic floodplain habitat types between Sioux City and the Kansas/Nebraska state line. This would include oxbows, chutes, sand bars, backwaters, wetlands, and other shallow water habitats.

Objective 2.  Restore flows that mimic the natural hydrograph.

Objective 3.  Inform and educate the general public and constituency groups about ecosystem function and management.

Objective 4.  Increase public use of the Missouri River and its floodplain.

Objective 5.  Manage native fish, wildlife, waterfowl, and furbearers.

Biological and Aquatic Resources of the Missouri River (Research Crew)

      The Missouri River Research Crew is funded by a grant from the Army Corps of Engineers and was conceived in order to monitor the response of pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus) to artificial spring rise conditions created by manipulating water releases from Gavins Point Dam. This work is performed in cooperation with a crew from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Columbia Environmental Research Center in Columbia, Missouri. A major component of this research is to implant adult pallid sturgeon with acoustic telemetry tags. This allows researchers to locate the fish repeatedly throughout the year. The entire lower river, from Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, South Dakota to the mouth near St. Louis, Missouri (811 river miles) (map of study area) is monitored to obtain fish locations.  Each location for each fish is catalogued in a database. (Pics of tags, implantation process, videos in future?, link to Sturgeon Blog). These locations allow the Missouri River Research Crew to document direction and magnitude of pallid sturgeon movements, which helps to characterize behavior, physical habitat, and habitat use.

In spring, the focus of the Research Crew narrows to focus solely on pallid sturgeon in reproductive condition.  A select group (2-5 fish) of gravid (reproductive) females is followed intensively from the beginning of their upstream spawning migration until they spawn.  Once spawning behavior is observed, monitoring intensity increases further and attempts are made to capture the activity on video (link to DIDSON video). Each female is then recaptured so that biologists can confirm that her eggs were deposited successfully.  Finally, the areas where pallid sturgeon are believed to have spawned are sampled for pallid sturgeon eggs and larvae.

Males also undergo reproductive evaluation prior to the intensive monitoring period.  Any males that are reproductive are paid close attention.  This becomes especially important in the event that tagged males and females meet.

Invertebrate Sampling

Following the flood of 2011, the Research Crew began using trotlines to capture both pallid and shovelnose sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus) after locating tagged sturgeon on the floodplain using telemetry equipment.  This sampling takes place during July and August.  When Scaphirhynchus spp. are captured, pulsed gastric lavage (PGL) (pictures) is used to remove the stomach contents of select fish.  The organisms contained in the stomachs are identified and tabulated in the laboratory.  The overall dietary selections are then analyzed to determine the food habits of these species.

Pallid Sturgeon Population Assessment Program

Standard Sampling

The Missouri River Program's Pallid Sturgeon Population Assessment Program began in 2003.  The NGPC originally partnered with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) offices based in Pierre, South Dakota and Columbia, Missouri to form the collective Population Assessment Team.  This program conducts research under the Missouri River Biological Opinion and is funded by the US Army Corps of Engineers grant.NGPC is responsible for sampling from Lower Ponca Bend (RM 753.0) to approximately the Nebraska/Kansas state line (RM 489.9) (map of study area). Standard sampling techniques include the use of gill nets, trammel nets, trawls, trot lines and fyke nets.  This sampling focuses on several "species of concern," most prominently the pallid sturgeon.  The overall goal of the program is to: Provide the information to detect changes in pallid sturgeon and native target species populations in the Missouri River basin.   (pics/videos of sampling techniques)

Broodstock Collection
Since 2008, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) has organized an intensive effort targeted towards sampling pallid sturgeon in reproductive condition in the upper channelized Missouri River, in early April. Facebook Page.  Using baited trot lines, sampling crews target areas around the confluence of the Platte and Missouri Rivers (RM 595.0) to Lower Barney Bend below Hamburg, IA (RM 546.2).  When pallid sturgeon meeting broodstock size specifications are captured they are transported to one of several fish hatcheries including Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery near Yankton, South Dakota; Blind Pony State Fish Hatchery near Sweet Springs, Missouri; or Neosho National Fish Hatchery in Neosho, Missouri for evaluation of their sex and reproductive condition.  Reproductively ready fish are artificially spawned and their offspring are reared to suitable stocking size to augment the population.

Floodplain Sampling
During the flood conditions of 2010 and 2011, NPGC conducted contingency sampling on the floodplain on the Missouri River.  Public lands were selected and a suite of gears were used to effectively sample these unique conditions.    In 2012, flood evaluation continued by sampling lakes created by the floodwaters inundating the historic Missouri River floodplain.   

Habitat Assessment and Monitoring Project

The Habitat Assessment and Monitoring Project was established in 2005 under a grant contract from the USACE.  The NGPC HAMP was established to document biological changes related to habitat improvement projects within the channelized, main channel of the Missouri River from Sioux City, IA to Rulo, NE.  Recently the HAMP has been modified to monitor biological differences between Main Channel and constructed off-channel habitats (i.e., backwaters and side channels).The HAMP crew collects information related to pallid sturgeon and their ecologically important prey resources (i.e., native minnows and aquatic macroinvertebrates) along with other native and non-native fish species, zooplankton and water quality components.

Missouri River Studies – F-75-R

The Missouri River Studies Crew is also responsible for completing the tasks assigned for Federal Grant F-75-R (Sport Fish and Restoration Funds). Regular sampling includes the annual young of year paddlefish (Polydon spathula) trawl survey on Lewis and Clark Reservoir once a week for about 6 weeks during the summer.  Adult paddlefish are also collected and tagged below Gavins Point Dam.  These fish are catalogued and marked with jaw tags.  This data, along with fishermen’s response cards, is used to help evaluate the population and set a suitable number of permits for archery paddlefish season and paddlefish snagging season.  We also have a representative for MICRA (Mississippi River Interstate Cooperative Resource Association).  From that organization he collects coded-wire tags from paddlefish from multiple agencies and manages data collected from those tags.

The F-75-R Grant also provides for catfish sampling on both the channelized and unchannelized sections of the river.  This is part of a population study to monitor the status of all catfish species in the river.

In a normal year we sample with multiple gears; electrofishing, frame nets and mini-fykes at mitigation sites; Schilling WMA, Ponca State Park backwater, Bazile Creek backwater, every other month this summer and early fall. Including all of that, the F-75-R report is organized and updated every year.

The NGPC Missouri River Studies program also conducts an on-going turtle survey in cooperation with researchers from the NGPC Wildlife Division.  This survey is conducted in order to monitor the populations of five species of turtle with live along the Missouri River.




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