MDC fisheries biologist loves job, sampling fish populations

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO. – The morning air is brisk as fish jump and the sun rises high into the sky. Salvador Mondragon, a Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Fisheries Biologist, is part of this unique scene.

"A day in this position is never the same. I could come into the office expecting to do one thing, and it could completely change if something comes up," stated Mondragon. "A general day could include fish population sampling, educational programs for adults or children, or working with plant life on lakes and ponds."

Mondragon samples fish populations as part of his normal tasks at the MDC. To get an estimate of how many crappie are in Lake Girardeau, he places 65-foot long trap nets along the banks of the lake in four feet of water. Mondragon and his team drive from net to net to measure each fish for length before returning it back to the lake. The measurement data shows the distribution and abundance of the various fish species in the lake.

"The fish that were stocked the previous year were 4 inches, so this year they should be 7 to 8 inches," Mondragon said. Twenty-three crappie fish were caught in 2012, over multiple days, during the MDC’s sampling.

On this day, Mondragon sampled 19 red ear and five black crappie. He said he hoped to catch several more the next day.

Mondragon said MDC fisheries biologists delivered a total of 32,500 white crappie to Lake Girardeau in 2011 and 2012. The department added another 32,500 of each of these species this fall and in 2014 black crappie will be stocked.

People who work at the MDC have a passion for what they do, Mondragon said, adding that his appreciation for fish comes from fishing with his family. That appreciation shows in both his personal and work time.

"I get to spend most of my time outside, enjoying nature. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?" Mondragon stated.

To find more information on fisheries management and fishing opportunities in Missouri, go online to