Barbs and Backlashes

“Blinded me with science”–Dolby Thomas by Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
November 20, 2009, 11:58 am
Filed under: Fishing | Tags:

OK, you might think this is boring, but I believe it is important to let folks know some of the things we do at the Game & Parks Commission and some of the things that are going on in the state.  We have a number of folks working on a variety of fisheries research projects either directly through the Game & Parks Commission or in partnership with universities.

Last week I found out about a couple of papers that recently have been published in the scientific journal, Ecology of Freshwater Fish.  One of those, Tributaries influence recruitment of fish in large rivers, was authored by B. M. Pracheil and M. A. Pegg of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and G. E. Mestl of the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission.  The second one, Seasonal use distributions and migrations of blue sucker in the Middle Missouri River was also authored by M. A. Pegg and G. E. Mestl along with B. C. Neely of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

I am not going to bore you with all the details of those papers and if you want to see them you will have to go to the Ecology of Freshwater Fish journal, but let me tell you what I found interesting about those papers. Tributaries influence recruitment of fish in large rivers specifically looked at the recruitment of paddlefish in the Missouri River above Gavins Point Dam.  The Niobrara River is a major tributary in that stretch of river and had a significant influence on paddlefish recruitment (when pointy-headed fish biologists talk about “recruitment” they mean the addition of new fish to a population).  Most major rivers have been altered in some fashion–damming, channelization, flow alteration, etc.  Tributaries that flow into those altered rivers can be very important habitats because they tend to be less altered and provide important natural habitat components.  That is true not only for paddlefish, but for many other species of fish, game fish included, that live in large rivers.

In the second paper, Seasonal use distributions and migrations of blue sucker in the Middle Missouri River, the authors followed the movement of blue suckers in the Missouri River by implanting those fish with radio/acoustic transmitters.  Fish in large rivers can move a lot and movements up to 210 miles were documented.  Blue suckers in the Missouri River moved the most in spring and fall.  The fish moved in spring to reach spawning habitats and after spawning they migrated to summering areas where they stayed until fall when they moved towards wintering habitats.  Fall movements often were towards spawning habitats as well and that might have been a behavior that allowed the fish to complete a portion of their spawning migration in the fall before water temperatures got too cold.  Then the blue suckers could recover through the winter before completing the rest of their spawning migration in early spring.  Again this research was specific to blue suckers but the movement patterns of many other large river species is very similar.  This research also points out the importance of managing entire systems for those species–blue suckers needed healthy habitats in hundreds of miles of Missouri River that bordered several states.

Here is what a blue sucker looks like. They are a curious-looking fish, kind of neat (of course a fish biologist would say something like that).

By the way, I know that some of the research crews working on Nebraska’s Missouri River have collected blue suckers that would be large enough to qualify as world’s records!

If you are interested in a career in fisheries, the first thing I will tell you is do not enter the field if you want to make lots of money.  All of us do this because it is our passion, what we love, none of us are doing it for the money.  The second thing I would tell you is to go to school!  Again, I am not sponsored by anyone, but I will tell you what I did.  I received my B.S. from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln; I majored in Natural Resources with the fish & wildlife management option (emphasis on FISH!), .  I went on to graduate school where I worked on my own research project at South Dakota State University, .  I received a M.S. degree from SDSU in fisheries science.

I have been fascinated with fish for as long as I can remember, and I have loved to fish for as long as I can remember.  I decided a long time ago that I would love to have a job that had something to do with fish and fishing, and I have been very blessed to end up doing that!  All the research and science still fascinates me because I am still learning new things about fish and that helps me figure out how to catch them!  GO FISH!


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Comment by Chris H.

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