“Shocking” research

A Flathead Catfish netted from the Missouri River for research by the department of conservation. Photo by J.B. Forbes

By Megan LaManna

As the boat cruised along the lower end of the Worthwine Island, skeletal remains from fallen trees and brush could be seen. Some were bone dry, others were waterlogged with algae and new plant life emerging from them.

Some might think of that as an ugly sight, but to the fisheries management division of the Missouri Department of Conservation, it looks like ecological haven.

Big brush piles in the water are good for smaller organisms, fish cover and food production, said Vince Trabnichek, research science supervisor with the conservation department.

The Missouri River used to house many different species of wildlife, but now the situation is different. Today, the current is so strong it washes away many of the eggs and juvenile fish so they are unable to reach full maturity. Because of this, the population of several fish species of fish is declining.

Matt Engel, a fisheries expert with the department, worked on getting an estimated population of local fish species on Friday. In order to get that estimate, Engle temporarily paralyzed the fish with an electric current emanating from probes on the boat. Engle then helped net and count the different species that were found. Many of the fish found on Friday were catfish, more specifically, Blue Catfish, Flathead Catfish and Channel Catfish.

“There’s a lot of color variation in these, you get the marbled ones, the speckled ones and some with lighter colors,” said Engel as he flipped a catfish into the water without looking.

Although the 2012 drought may have lowered the water level, the flood from the previous year washed many fish into this area from up north. Trabnichek said that in a few years those fish would be large enough to catch and fishing could improve along this stretch of the river.

— Edited by Darren Orf

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One response to ““Shocking” research

  1. I like that you tied the headline to the story with the word shocking. The addition of the word “fish” might have given me an even better clue as what I might read. I like the photo you chose. Do you know how lucky you are to have J.B. Forbes illustrating your words! We should all be so lucky.

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