SHERIDAN - Perseverance enabled the sauger to swim more than 225 miles back to Wyoming and enlightened engineering and high-tech monitoring alerted biologists to the trek.
On April 16, 2012, Bill Bradshaw inserted a mini-transponder into the 16-inch native walleye-like fish in Montana where the Powder and Yellowstone rivers meet. Bradshaw and crew then came home to install a car battery-powered antenna at the upper end of the bypass channel around the Kendrick Dam on Clear Creek 7 miles upstream from the Powder River.
This July, the fish biologist inserted a memory card into his computer and discovered the same fish swam pastthe antenna not far downstream from his Sheridan office. The sauger swam at least 225 miles from where it was tagged in Montana to the Wyoming bypass channel.
“That’s exactly the type of information we were hoping to find out,” Bradshaw said. “That was the first sauger that’s been documented using the Kendrick Dam fish bypass.”
The bypass was completed in April 2010 for fish to swim around the irrigation dam and use 36 miles of Clear Creekthat were inaccessible for over 100 years. Several channel catfish with transponders, including some traveling as far as from the Montana state line, have been detected swimming through the bypass. Bradshaw and cohorts have also netted channel catfish and many other native species using the bypass and hope shovelnose sturgeon may, too.
Bradshaw says there’s historical evidence of sauger being caught around Clearmont in the 1800s. “We’ve seen catfish come back to Clear Creek above the dam to the point that people are catching them,” he said. “We hope people start catching sauger, too.”
The bypass runs approximately 800 feet around the dam and is about 4-foot deep at maximum capacity. The projectwas spearheaded by Travis Cundy, aquatic habitat biologist for northeast Wyoming, with help from the Pee Gee Ranch and several public contributors.
Due to the absence of dams and sudden high flows triggered by thunderstorms, the Powder River has registered otherinteresting fish travels. In April 2011 a channel catfish was caught near Pompey’s Pillar, Mont. after being tagged just below the Kendrick Dam in June 2007 – more than 415 river miles away. In June 2006, a channel catfish was tagged in Wyoming’s Powder River near the mouth of Crazy Woman Creek. Five days later it was recaptured by the same fisheries crew 25 miles upstream.
“The fish bypass is an important cog in connecting the Powder River system for the benefit of native fishes,” said Bradshaw, adding that the Powder River is one of the longest waterways in the country without a dam.
(Contact: Jeff Obrecht (307) 777-4532)