It's time for Missouri River Adopt-A-Fish to bid a fond farewell to Frodo, or Moe, Jr., or Sir Knight, or simply Pallid Sturgeon No. 1. It's not that this much-loved adopted fish has died. It's simply that we don't know where she is.
Sometime since April 24, she shed her radio transmitter. It has happened before with female pallid sturgeon. Apparently, it's not too uncommon for a fish's digestive tract to grow around the transmitter and then the fish simply passes it along with its bodily waste.
That pallid is still out there swimming around somewhere and taught us all a good lesson. Even when you implant radio transmitters inside a fish, they don't necessarily stay there forever.
Biologists also noted a neat trend in most of the shovelnose sturgeon that were in the Missouri River below Wolf Point. They dropped down the Missouri, hit the Yellowstone confluence, then headed up the Yellowstone, some all the way to Intake Diversion Dam.
There were six radioed shovelers in the Culbertson area two weeks ago and five of them are up the Yellowstone now. In all, between adopted fish and others with transmitters, we found 17 shovelnose up the Yellowstone on Tuesday.
When we got to the 7 Sisters area, we saw a dramatic increase in turbidity — muddy water — from all the recent rains in tributary streams. It's as if the sturgeon can sense something's about to happen. It will be interesting to see what these fish do when the rest of the runoff hits, the water gets muddier and begins to rise.
And where, oh where is Walley-Nels-Pinnochio-Spanky-Paddlefish No. 4? Of all the adopted fish, it's the only one we haven't found this spring. Our best guess, after spending last fall in North Dakota, is that it dropped downstream into Lake Sakakawea. But we keep looking.
After spending all of the past week on the lower river, we'll be back above Wolf Point in the week ahead and get locations on the adopted fish there.
On the Internet, anyone can go to www.walleyesunlimited.com and click on the Missouri River Adopt-A-Fish button to see maps of the movements of the adopted fish or learn more about this unique stretch of the river. Classrooms can still sign up for the program and adopt fish of their own.
Missouri River Adopt-A-Fish is a cooperative effort of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, The Billings Gazette and Walleyes Unlimited of Montana.
This week's article was written by Dave Fuller of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Wade King of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Mark Henckel, Billings Gazette Outdoor Editor. Missouri River Adopt-A-Fish is a cooperative effort of the three groups and the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Walleyes Unlimited of Montana.