Researchers luring anadromous fish - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Researchers luring anadromous fish

Chattahoochee, Florida- As the saying goes, there's no place like home. Case in point, when it comes to fish that return to Lake Seminole from the Gulf of Mexico to spawn. And researchers in Georgia and Florida are working around the clock right now to study those fish.

     Like a recon mission from above, researchers on the Appalachicola River where it meets Lake Seminole have to skim the surface to find what they want below the surface. They're tagging and monitoring anadromous fish, those that live in the ocean but spawn in freshwater. "We're trying to evaluate fish passage, trying to get the fish to utilize the lock," says Senior Georgia Fisheries Biologist Ramon Martin.

     That's a task all researchers involved agree is dire when it comes to preserving stocks for sport fishing and water quality. "Over time we'll get recaptures. And then we'll be able to determine the number of fish that are congregating in the area," says Martin. "By looking at the proportion of tagged fish to untagged fish, we can estimate how many there are," adds Clemson University Professor and USGS Scientist Dr. Jeff Isley.

     Researchers could spend hours catching the fish with a rod and reel. But they say that doesn't make much sense. That's where special electrified probes mounted on the front of their boats come in handy. "It actually stuns the fish. When they're stunned, they actually align with the electro-current and swim right up to the probes," says Isley.

     That's just the beginning of the process for some of the fish. "First thing we do is check the fish to see if its got a tag in it," says Isley. If they haven't already been tagged, one is attached to the outside of the smaller fish. They larger ones have them surgically implanted. After the radio tag has been installed in the larger fish, it only takes about five minutes for the anesthesia to wear off. "Know how I can tell when he's about ready? He's going to bite me," laughs Isley.

     It's a dirty job, but it's one researchers say is necessary to ensuring nature's health and your health. "You really have to love your job to be in this field," says Ramon.

     The researchers are studying Gulf Striped Bass, Gulf Sturgeon, and Alabama Shad. Here's proof that the water quality part of their study is important. Alabama Shad are related to American Shad, which translates to "very savory."

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