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Special Project Nets Rare Fish


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Special project nets rare fish

PIERRE, S.D. - Five endangered pallid sturgeon were caught in Lake Sharpe as part of an effort to broaden the genetic pool of sturgeon being raised at a federal fish hatchery.

One of the five sturgeon caught in nets in the Pierre area died before it could be removed.

The captured fish are estimated to be 40 to 50 years old. Pallid sturgeon haven't reproduced naturally in Lake Sharpe since the completion of the Oahe Dam more than 40 years ago.

"We are pretty satisfied with our efforts," said Gregg Wanner, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Pierre.

Nets were placed Oct. 16 and removed five days later in a cooperative effort of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks; the Army Corps of Engineers and Fish & Wildlife Service.

The fish varied in weight from 13 to 20 pounds and in length from 3 feet to 5 feet.

"What's interesting about the pallid sturgeon is that they've been around since the dinosaurs were here," said Aaron Leingang of the state Game, Fish & Parks Department. "They survived everything from dinosaurs to ice ages and are one of the oldest living creatures on the earth. And they are unchanged since that time. It's pretty impressive."

The fish were taken to a federal fish hatchery near Yankton and will help expand the genetic pool and brood stock of pallid sturgeon already there.

"These fish are endangered," said Wayne Nelson Stastny, Missouri River Natural Resource Committee Coordinator for the Fish & Wildlife Service. "Populations don't recover by simply stocking them. We want a self-sustaining population out there so being able to bring new diversity to the (hatchery) is pretty invaluable."

The pallid sturgeon that died was quite old and became too stressed when it was caught in the net, Wanner said.

Officials will check the fish's age, diet, biology and genetics so as to get a better idea on how to help the pallid sturgeon.

"We accept that there will be some mortality, but we go above and beyond the call and do everything we can to avoid it. It isn't a total loss. We will gain a lot of information from the fish," Wanner said.

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