Environmental officials from Nebraska and Iowa plan to monitor populations of sport fish in the Missouri River despite Iowa closing its only monitoring station on the river last month.
Fisheries staff will work with scientists in both states to monitor paddlefish and catfish.
Chris Larson, with Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources, says there’s been an influx of species like blue catfish north of Omaha and scientists want to know why.
“We want to continue to monitor those populations to see if they stay,” Larson says. “If their number stay up above Omaha or do they go back down and decrease and can we tie that to some kind of river operations and-or habitat changes on the river.”
Larson says catfish populations have not changed significantly over the last 13 years, so this recent trend is surprising.
“This blue catfish influx a little bit further north than what we’ve seen in the past is interesting on the surface,” Larson says, “and obviously a great opportunity for anglers to get out and catch some of these large individuals that make very good table fare.”
The monitoring station was shut down due to a lack of funding and a need to move staff to areas of higher urgency. The state used the station to monitor Army Corps of Engineers habitat projects, but it’s been two years since that kind of work has been done on the river.
Larson says the decision to track these fish with Nebraska scientists combines limited staff resources in two states to better understand population trends.
By Katie Peikes, Iowa Public Radio