Missouri Department of Conservation officials are stocking the Meramec River with lake sturgeon, a species that is endangered in the state, in hopes of raising their population.
The lake sturgeon, a fish that can grow up to 8 feet and live for over a century, declined sharply in the 19th century due to over harvesting and river projects that removed its habitat. State wildlife officials began stocking the species in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and their tributaries in 1984.
"They were historically very important for Native Americans," said Travis Moore, who coordinates the state's lake sturgeon program, "And as you look across the country, in other places where they have lake sturgeon, they are also a very popular sport fish."
The department is stocking the rivers this month. Moore, who implants electronic transmitters in the fish to study their movements, plans to study young sturgeon this winter and spring.
Through tracking, Moore learned that the fish travel shorter distances when placed first in a tributary than in a fast-moving body of water, such as the Mississippi. He thinks that in a tributary, the fish may find an ideal habitat more quickly.
"If they find what they like faster, they will be in better condition and their survival will be better," Moore said.
Moore hopes to raise the lake sturgeon's numbers to a sustainable level so that it can be recreationally fished. Maintaining an adult population of the species is challenging, as the fish reproduce infrequently.
"We want that population to be sustainable," he said. "We want to be able to get to a point where we may be able to stop stocking them altogether and let nature take its course."
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