Date of this Version
2019 Blackwell Verlag GmbH
Successful recruitment of endangered pallid sturgeon has not been documented in the upper Missouri River basin for decades, and research on the reproductive ecology of pallid sturgeon has been hindered by low sample size. A conservation propagation program was initiated in the 1990s, and the oldest age class of hatchery‐origin pallid sturgeon are becoming sexually mature increasing the number of reproductively‐ active fish in the system. However, it is currently unknown how the reproductive ecology of hatchery‐origin pallid sturgeon relates to the few remaining wild fish. Following spring reproductive assessments, weekly relocations were recorded for each individual from late‐May to mid‐July to facilitate comparisons of spawning season movements among reproductive classifications and between spring hydrographs (2015 and 2016) for male pallid sturgeon. Mean total movement distances (±SE) were 104.5 km (18.9) for reproductively‐active wild males, 116.0 km (18.1) for reproductively‐ active 1997‐year class males, and 20.6 km (3.0) for non‐reproductively‐active fish of unconfirmed sex. Movement characteristics of reproductively‐active males did not differ between 2015 and 2016 despite a difference of eight days in the timing of peak discharge and a difference of 79 m3/s (16.7%) in magnitude. Male aggregations were observed on the descending limb of the hydrograph in 2016 during temperatures suitable for spawning, but female pallid sturgeon underwent follicular atresia, similar to the other years of the study. Hatchery‐origin pallid sturgeon from the conservation propagation program appear to have retained reproductive characteristics from the wild broodstock, a key finding for a population where local extirpation of the wild stock is imminent.