Pallid sturgeon: Reeling in the big one on the job

Greg Liebelt cradles pallid female, last caught in 1997

Greg Liebelt cradles pallid female, last caught in 1997.

Western’s Upper Great Plains region has supported recovery efforts for the pallid sturgeon since 1992 when a National Recovery Plan for the endangered fish was developed.

Now, more than 18 years later Western is still keeping its commitment. In fact, Montana Environmental Protection Specialist Greg Liebelt joined forces with Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from North Dakota to recover pallid sturgeon at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers, April 26.

A total of seven boats from the two agencies, manned with two people teams, used drift nets to capture the elusive pallids. Then the pallids were taken to fish hatcheries at Miles City, Mont., and Garrison, N.D., where they can spawn and ensure the future of more pallids in the Missouri River.

Two-man boat teams use tracking devices and drift nets to capture the pallids.

Two-man boat teams use tracking devices and drift nets to capture the pallids.

During the 3-day operation, where he and his boat mate Ryan Lott, a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks employee, were fortunate to capture three pallids, including a female last caught in 1997, a male caught last April, and an unknown sex (thought to be a female) last caught in 1996. All three fish were just under 5 feet in length and weighed between 30 to 40 pounds. In addition to the pallids, Greg and Lott caught some other fish, including six paddlefish (one around 70 pounds), one shovel nose sturgeon that was missing its’ tail fin and numerous buffalo carp. Greg said, “You never knew what you were going to find when you started pulling up the net.”

After capturing each pallid, they placed the fish in a holding tank on the boat. “Basically we used a water trough and covered it with a tarp,” explained Greg. “Then we measured each fish for length and weight. We collected blood for analysis and clipped a portion of the fin to test for Iridovirus on the pallids caught back in 1996 and 1997.

Teams used troughs as holding tanks for the pallids

Teams used troughs as holding tanks for the pallids.

Said Greg, “The opportunity to help out with the recovery efforts of the endangered pallid sturgeon was both a rare and fulfilling experience! As a fairly substantial amount of Western’s revenue is generated from the Missouri River, it is pretty awesome to see Western’s involvement towards recovering the pallid sturgeon and seeing how it is helping to make a difference.”


  • By baz, August 20, 2010 @ 3:56 am

    good article, Its great to see government acknowledging and committing to a good cause

  • By baz, August 27, 2010 @ 4:33 am

    great to see Western ploughing some of the profits back into recovering this endangered species. Also a great job for the angler haha

  • By Deck Boat Fisher, September 4, 2010 @ 8:32 am

    After fishing in those areas for a few years, I can tell you the Sturgeon really started to decline.

    Its great to see that efforts are in place to bring the numbers back up so that others will have a chance to fish for them one day.

    Does anyone have any idea of the current numbers for the population?

  • By online value, September 23, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

    Thats a really interesting article on Western’s recovery effort for the pallid sturgeon. Hopefully the program goes well and the pallids are returned to the region in greater numbers.

  • By Pete, October 15, 2010 @ 11:09 pm

    If more organizations had programs like Western, the world would be a better place.

  • By Johnny Walker, October 21, 2010 @ 3:46 pm

    This was a very interesting read! Lots of opinion and very
    good research to be shared! Good feedback from the online
    readers as well. I must commend the author and web designer
    as well. Thank you for taking the time to share this with us.

  • By Kelly, November 29, 2010 @ 10:16 am

    I didn’t know pallids were endangered. Good to see the govt is doing something about it.

  • By John Arcilla, March 23, 2011 @ 9:38 am

    Wow! that’s a big catch! And it’s a good cause that the government are doing something to preserve the sturgeons. I think it will also better if the government will culture the sturgeons to increase their numbers.

  • By telugu cinema wallpapers, March 29, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

    I searched everywhere about pallid female for my college articles. But I landed over here via google search. The fishes are looking gigantic.

  • By Nina, April 17, 2011 @ 8:28 am

    I’ve been explaining my daughteres about preserving endangered species and we found this post. The fish is very impressive and beautiful. You are doing a great job, guys! I just wanted to say that Greg Liebelt with the pallid looks like he’s holding a baby and then read that’s heing actually “cradling” it))) Please, don’t let them stay without water for too long!

  • By Danny T.V. Watcher, May 29, 2011 @ 2:48 am

    Im a big believer in preserving nature. Interesting piece and thoughts. I am a supporter of preserving the coral in the great barrier reef which is a current worry in Oz

  • By Darren, May 29, 2011 @ 2:51 am

    Affirmative – we need to look after our wildlife. I’ve travelled all over the world and have seen a lot of destruction of our planet. We need to support the cause and preserve our future.

  • By Nest Boxes, July 9, 2011 @ 8:16 am

    It’s good to see some excellent work being done to preserve such an important species

  • By Bill Smite, July 13, 2011 @ 6:54 pm

    WoW!! Thats one big Fish!!

  • By wordpress themes, July 20, 2011 @ 3:38 am

    well these fishes are really huge… I was hoping to see some more pictures of them… but how are you carrying that gigantor in your arms???

  • By Jay, August 5, 2011 @ 8:21 am

    Government intervention with ecological issues such as this, is extremely important for the Ecosytem. Glad to see they are stepping in to do something about it.

  • By Hey Jude, August 12, 2011 @ 3:59 pm

    Indeed good to see the government taking action, or else the future wouldnt looks to bright for them!

  • By scenic pictures, October 4, 2011 @ 9:49 am

    Good to see the Govt is getting more involved. Hope to see they do the same for Florida manatee

  • By black, November 24, 2011 @ 8:49 am

    well these fishes are really huge… I was hoping to see some more pictures of them…

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  • By SEO Web Designer, May 6, 2012 @ 7:11 pm

    It is good to see that this is happening. I live in Canada and we do what we can to preserve and maintain our fisheries.

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