Spawning Locations of Pallid Sturgeon in the Missouri River Corroborate the Mechanism for Recruitment Failure

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Conservation propagation of pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus) upstream of Fort Peck Reservoir, MT, USA, has successfully recruited a new generation of spawning-capable pallid sturgeon where there would otherwise be fewer than 30 remaining wild reproductively mature pallid sturgeon. Successful recovery of pallid sturgeon will now rely on the behavior of pallid sturgeon (e.g., successful spawning in locations that provide adequate drift distance for larvae to recruit). We used location data of pallid sturgeon during four putative spawning seasons to answer the following questions: Where do pallid sturgeon spawn? Are spawning locations related to discharge? Are substrate characteristics at the spawning locations similar to other river reaches? Do spawning-capable females, spawning-capable males, and female pallid sturgeon undergoing mass ovarian follicular atresia use the river similarly? Additionally, we considered if spawning locations are far enough from the river–reservoir transition zone to provide adequate drift distance for larvae to recruit. Spawning-capable pallid sturgeon did explore upstream locations, and four spawning-capable pallid sturgeon were located in the Marias River during the spawning season in 2018 when discharge was at an unprecedented high. Pallid sturgeon exited the Marias River and moved downstream prior to spawning, and when spawning occurred, it was not far enough upstream to prevent larvae from entering the transition zone of Fort Peck Reservoir. Thus, management of discharge and water temperature to mimic 2018 conditions may increase use of the Marias River by pallid sturgeon during the spawning season, which would increase drift distance available to larvae and increase the probability of successful recruitment.



pallid sturgeon, recruitment failure, spawning substrate, spawning location, spawning movement


Cox TL, Guy CS, Holmquist LM, Webb MAH. Spawning Locations of Pallid Sturgeon in the Missouri River Corroborate the Mechanism for Recruitment Failure. Fishes. 2023; 8(5):243.
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