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Pallid Sturgeon, the Shovelnose Sturgeon, and Side Channels

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may ban commercial fishing of all sturgeon, the endangered pallid sturgeon and the common shovelnose sturgeon. Fish and Wildlife put the pallid Sturgeon on the endangered list in 1990.

Those of us who love caviar have driven the harvest of shovelnose sturgeon from 6,600 pounds in 1995 to 23,000 pounds in 2007, when its roe or eggs were getting $80 a pound.

There is a problem here: the young pallid sturgeon can be mistaken for an adult shovelnose. If its caught and turned into caviar, that’s one less pallid to grow to adulthood and breed more sturgeon.

Biologists release Pallid Sturgeon

Biologists release Pallid Sturgeon

Sturgeons spend most of their lives in fast-moving, muddy rivers. But they breed in quiet side channels near sand or gravel bars.

Duck Island Side Channel at the Confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers

Duck Island Side Channel at the Confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers

In its attempt to maintain a viable nine-foot navigation channel and to keep the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers from adopting side channels as the navigation channel, the Corps built closing dams across the head of side channels. The closed channels silted in. The pallid sturgeon lost breeding places.

Confluence, Columbia Bottoms, Long Dike on right

Confluence, Columbia Bottoms, Long Dike on right

At the Confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi, a long dike directs the Missouri current into the Mississippi to the right of the dike.

Long Dike at the Confluence

Long Dike at the Confluence

The Corps of Engineers on the Missouri and Mississippi have been working to restore side channels to the rivers. The Corps began cutting notches in dikes to allow water to flow through side channels, keeping them open for sturgeon and other fish looking for a quiet place. The anglers follow.

Notched Dike at the Confluence

For those who are interested in exploring Columbia Bottoms and other sites along the Mississippi near St. Louis, go to TwoTankTours.com and download the Riverlands tour, which covers Columbia Bottoms, Riverlands, the Chain of Rocks, Horseshoe Lake State Park, and Dresser Island. The cost is $7.

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