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Tuesday, January 29 • 2:00pm - 2:20pm
(FISHERIES: EARLY LIFE HISTORY) Larval Drift Sampling for Scaphirhynchus Sturgeon in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers

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AUTHORS: Kevin Haupt, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Hae Kim, West Virginia University Division of Forestry and Natural Resources; Donovan Henry, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Sara Tripp, Big Rivers and Wetlands Field Station Missouri Department of Conservation; Quinton Phelps, West Virginia University Division of Forestry and Natural Resources

ABSTRACT: Larval fish sampling can provide insight into early life vital rates, abundance, and drift dynamics. In riverine environments, larval fish drift dynamics may influence early-life survival. Further, field and lab studies have shown that drift dynamics vary across species. Thus, information during this life stage is imperative for proper conservation and management of riverine fishes. However, successfully sampling larval fishes in riverine environments presents various challenges (e.g., spatial and temporal coverage and sampling effectiveness). As it relates to Scaphirhynchus sturgeon, these challenges are exasperated when targeting larvae in fast flowing reaches of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Prior research suggests that Scaphirhynchus sturgeon are benthic post-hatch. Our objectives were to determine drift dynamics and origin of Pallid Sturgeon in the Missouri River, Middle Mississippi River, and Upper Mississippi. We sampled in river reaches above and below the confluence of the Misssouri River, above chain of rocks and below chain of rocks on the middle Mississippi. We employed two 1000µm mesh, rectangular framed-nets off both sides of the boat. Weights (45kg) were affixed to the bottom of each net, to keep nets upright. Additionally, flow-meters were affixed to the mouth of the nets to measure volume of water filtered. Nets were deployed from the boat via an electric winch. Sampling commenced in mid April and ended in late June.  Overall, approximately 3,500 larval drift samples were collected during the study period.  Preliminary results indicate we have captured drifting Scaphirhynchus sturgeon throughout the water column (i.e., surface, middle, and bottom) at all river reaches.  To this end, employing larval drift nets throughout the water column may provide additional insight into Scaphirhynchus sturgeon life history that will inform conservation and management of these species.

Tuesday January 29, 2019 2:00pm - 2:20pm