Dispersal and Dam Passage of Sonic-tagged Juvenile Lake Sturgeon in the Upper Tennessee River

More than 90,000 state-endangered lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) have been stocked into the French Broad River, Holston River, and Fort Loudoun Lake in the upper Tennessee River system. Although incidental reports of anglers catching these fish have increased, little is known about their fate after stocking. Therefore, this study was conducted to evaluate lake sturgeon dispersal throughout the system. Seven submersible ultrasonic receivers were deployed in the upper Tennessee River system and 37 juvenile fish (mean fork length = 660 mm) were surgically implanted with ultrasonic transmitters in the fall of 2007. These fish were stocked at two sites in the headwaters of Fort Loudoun Lake. The receivers logged 1,345 detections of tagged fish and manual tracking located 32 of the 37 tagged lake sturgeon over 21 months. Ten (31%) tagged fish passed through Fort Loudoun Dam and were located downstream in the headwaters of Watts Bar Reservoir; the other tagged fish were still at large above Fort Loudoun Dam when tracking ceased in 2009. Of all fish stocked, three (9%) were last located in the French Broad River and none were located in the Holston River.

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