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Studying Missouri River fisheries is his job By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

ONAWA, Iowa — Monitoring the Missouri River fishery is the job of Ryan Hupfeld, Missouri River fish management biologist.

Hupfeld was named to the position last fall after Van Sterner, fisheries biologist, retired.

While much of the work on the river addresses the endangered pallid sturgeon, other fish are also studied, and, as time goes on, Hupfeld hopes to expand those studies.

“The paddlefish season opened a couple of years ago, and we have been monitoring that by gill netting every spring and fall,” Ryan says. “They seem to be doing very well. We caught fish from 18 to 41 inches, and the average weight was between 17 and 20 pounds.

“We are also jaw tagging these fish to look at movement and also exploitation to some degree,” he continued. “We’ve had nine recaptures and eight of them were from our tagging and one was from South Dakota. We also have had multiple numbers that were called in by anglers.”

What the paddlefish snagging studies have shown is somewhat surprising. It is clear that these fish roam up and down our rivers a lot.

“We learned most of them traveled well over 500 river miles,” he said. One of the paddlefish we tagged in March right here at Decatur was caught in October. It went all the way down the Missouri, down the Mississippi and up the Big Muddy River and was caught below a dam. That’s 1000 miles.”

“We’re also trying to work with and cooperate with other states to manage these fish,” he says.

Invasive fish species are of great concern.

Over the years, grass carp, bighead carp and silver carp have exploded in numbers through the Missouri below Gavins Point Dam at Yankton, S.D. All of these carp, including another called black carp, originally came from Asia and were brought over by fish farmers in an effort to keep their growing ponds clean. Floods enabled many of them to escape into our waterways.

“Black carp haven’t made it up here that we know of,” Ryan says. “Asian carp spawn from April through October, and they are very efficient at feeding, much more so than native plankton feeders.

“There are no natural predators for them like there is in China,” he continues. “They are having a big effect on our native fish. We’re monitoring silver carp populations, looking at age and growth. They’re very good to eat. We need to start developing a market for them so we can relieve our native fish populations from the stresses of them.” [Read more…]

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Invasive carp may ruin our fisheries By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal.
A couple of years ago things were kind of slow on the river. I guided the boat upstream and turned to slide into the mouth of the Big Sioux River.
“I want to show you something,” I told Fran. “Get ready for some action.”
We came into the quiet waters of the Sioux at about half throttle. As I motored along the rocks the water began to explode with fish leaping into the air.
I pulled Fran’s head under the windshield so she wouldn’t get hit. Fish were thumping the side of the boat, leaping eight feet into the air, falling into the boat and flopping. It was total chaos.
When we passed through the school, I said, “What did you think of that.”
“You did that on purpose,” she said.
Of course I did. Welcome to the silver carp.
This flying fish is one of three common varieties of what is known as Asian carp. They have infected virtually all of the tributaries of the Mississippi River. Their accidental release into our rivers may be the greatest ecological disaster to ever happen to our fisheries. [Read more…]