Milk River Sauger Abundance and Fish Community Structure
Fish populations in the Milk River in southern Alberta are influenced by international transboundary flow agreements between Alberta and Montana. Discussions are underway regarding the timing and quantity of water diverted into the North Milk River and subsequently conveyed into the Alberta portion of the river. The goal of our project was to generate data on fish distribution and abundance that can be used to review the status of fish species. Sauger is the primary sport fish of interest to anglers in the Milk River. ACA focused on determining sauger distribution and abundance and overall fish community composition in the middle reaches, while researchers from the University of Alberta conducted surveys on sculpin and western silvery minnow in the upper and lower reaches.
In 2014, the second and final year of the study, we used electrofishing to capture fish at 11 sites along the Milk River. We captured 12 species of fish representing seven families. Species composition varied between sites. Longnose sucker was the most abundant species, followed by flathead chub, sauger and white sucker. Sauger constituted 18% of the catch and was captured at all sites. Longnose sucker, flathead chub and white sucker were also captured at all sites. Longnose dace occurred at all reaches but not all sites within a reach. Northern pike, mountain sucker and Rocky Mountain sculpin occurred at two reaches, and lake chub and western silvery minnow occurred at one reach. Catch-per-unit-effort for sauger ranged from 0.5 to 2.1 fish/km. Sauger ranged from 215 to 599 mm in fork length, with a mean length (± standard deviation) of 387 ± 60 mm. The most abundant sizes occurred within the 360, 380 and 440 mm ranges, which made up 29% of the population (n = 41). We were unable to estimate abundance for sauger using mark-recapture techniques due to the low recapture rate.
Alberta Culture and Tourism, Alberta Environment and Parks, Government of Canada Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk
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