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Female Pallid Sturgeon Tracked Migrating Upstream

A noteworthy observation regarding pallid sturgeon migrations occurred on the Yellowstone River late in the afternoon Wednesday May 28, 2014. 

Mat and Christ discovered that an adult female pallid sturgeon (code 36) was logged on a telemetry base station located on the upper end of the Intake side channel.  The receiver logged code 36 passing upstream of the base station at approximately 12:00 am on May 28.  The provisional flow at the USGS gauging station at Glendive at this time was 52,900cfs.   

Mat and Chris followed up this observation by checking two additional base stations, one on the lower end of the side channel and one located on the Yellowstone River approximately 4 miles downstream of Intake dam.  Both stations also logged code 36 as the fish migrated upstream.  They also checked the base station at the Intake diversion dam and it did not log code 36.  The combination of data from these stations demonstrates that code 36 migrated upstream of Intake dam via the side channel.

 The two base stations on the Intake side channel were installed this year based on the projections of a high and sustained river flows from substantial mountain snowpack.  To my knowledge this is the first time the side channel has been monitored by a base station.  We tried to install a base station on the side channel in 2011, another high water year, but did not have enough telemetry receivers programmed to log codes. 

 On Thursday May 29, Mat & Chris searched via boat for code 36 upstream of Intake.  They located the fish and as of 11:00 am it was located near river mile 91 which is approximately 4.5 river miles downstream of Glendive or 15 miles upstream of Intake dam.  The fish was actively moving upstream as they tracked her location. 

This is the first adult pallid sturgeon confirmed upstream of Intake dam since 1991.  In 1991 one pallid sturgeon was netted in the Yellowstone River at the confluence of the Yellowstone River and O’Fallon Creek (river mile 127).

 On Friday May 30, at approximately 2:00 pm code 36 was located at river mile 98 (seven miles upstream of Glendive).  On average, while actively tracking by boat the last two days, the fish is moving upstream at approximately 0.3-0.4 miles per hour.


Code 36 was captured on May 15 near the state line to confirm her spawning status, see the following link for her picture: http://billingsgazette.com/lifestyles/recreation/blood-draw/image_12bf07e6-899a-5311-8f7d-8f4796245890.html .  The assessment determined the presence of eggs, which means spawning is likely to occur this year.  Unless river flows become dangerous for boat navigation crews will continue to monitor movements of code 36.  We will share additional details as more information is collected.

Mike Backes
R7 Fisheries Manager
Montana, Fish, Wildlife & Parks