Abstract

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Schuldt, J., M. Lapp, and R.A. Bellig. 1986. Distribution and habitat selection of the shovelnose sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus) in the Minnesota River. Final report submitted to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 18 pp.

Introduction:

The shovelnose sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus) has recently been of some concern because of apparent population reductions throughout much of its range in Minnesota and has recently been placed on the list of Special Concern by the Fish Group Committee of the Endangered Species Advisory Committee. The Minnesota River flowing through southern Minnesota may be one such area of concern. While it apparently had once been relatively abundant, MDNR surveys did not report it and other authorities such as Eddy and Underhill believed sturgeon to be scarce or absent altogether. A more recent MDNR survey of the river in 1980 and 1982 yielded few specimens. In contrast, rather substantial numbers of shovelnose sturgeon have been captured over the years in samples collected by personnel at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. The occurrence, age composition and food habits of sturgeon in the Minnesota River were reported in 1979. Continued interest in the sturgeon led to subsequent investigations which further substantiated the sturgeon's relative abundance in the vicinity of St. Peter. The primary goal of these studies was to determine by radiotelemetry and netting, the fall movements and habitat selection of shovelnose sturgeon.

The purpose of this present study was essentially two-fold. Because much of what we know about the sturgeon's relative abundance and habitat selection is from a rather small portion (15 km) of the total river length (533 km) it was considered important to determine their general distribution throughout the system. Secondly, what has been learned about this fish has been primarily from fall and early winter investigations and it was considered important to supplement this information with summer gathered data. In brief, we were interested in determining if sturgeon could be captured in the summer throughout the river with about the same success rate as is possible in a small study area in the fall. We were also interested in determining if sturgeon generally utilized summer habitats similar to those we have come to expect them to utilize during the fall.

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