Natural recruitment of pallid sturgeon Scaphirhynchus albus has not been observed in the Missouri River above Fort Peck Reservoir, Montana, for at least 20 years. To augment the population, age-1 hatchery-reared juvenile pallid sturgeon were released in 1998. The objective of this study was to evaluate the habitat use of these fish and compare it with that of indigenous shovelnose sturgeon S. platorynchus. Twenty-nine juvenile pallid sturgeon and 21 indigenous shovelnose sturgeon were implanted with radio transmitters in 2003 and 2004. The two species showed no differences in habitat use in terms of mean depth, cross-sectional relative depth, longitudinal relative depth, column velocity, bottom velocity, and channel width. However, there were seasonal differences within both species for cross-sectional relative depth, column velocity, and channel width. Both shovelnose sturgeon and juvenile pallid sturgeon were primarily associated with silt and sand substrate. However, shovelnose sturgeon were associated with gravel and cobble substrate more than juvenile pallid sturgeon. Shovelnose sturgeon and juvenile pallid sturgeon both selected reaches without islands and avoided reaches with islands; the two species also selected main-channel habitat and avoided secondary channels. Mean home range was similar between juvenile pallid sturgeon (15 km; 90% confidence interval, ??5.0 km) and shovelnose sturgeon (16.5 km; ??4.7 km). Spatial distribution differed between the two species, with shovelnose sturgeon using upstream areas more often than juvenile pallid sturgeon. Twenty-eight percent of juvenile pallid sturgeon frequented 60 km of lotie habitat that would be inundated by Fort Peck Reservoir at maximum pool. Stocking juvenile pallid sturgeon can successfully augment the wild pallid sturgeon population in the Missouri River above Fort Peck Reservoir, which is crucial to the long-term recovery of the species. However, water-level management in downstream reservoirs such as Fort Peck can influence the amount of habitat available for pallid sturgeon. ?? Copyright by the American Fisheries Society 2008.
Additional publication details
Habitat use of juvenile pallid sturgeon and shovelnose sturgeon with implications for water-level management in a downstream reservoir