Dedicated to the Conservation of Southeastern Fishes
1997 Report of Region 3 - North-Central
Status surveys and other interesting finds:
Ron Cicerello and Ellis Laudermilk, of the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission (KSNPC) report news from Kentucky. In 1996, the KSNPC published a list of rare plants and animals (Transactions of the Kentucky Academy of Science 57:69-91) that includes 29% (63 species) of Kentucky's fish fauna. Developed with the assistance of state and regional specialists, the list will be revised annually.
Bill Pearson and Charles Boston of the University of Louisville completed a range wide distribution and status survey of Amblyopsis spelaea, the northern cavefish, in 1995 that yielded reliable records for 21 sites in Kentucky and 44 in Indiana. They counted 994 cavefish at eight sites in Indiana and 17 sites in Kentucky in 1993-1994, and used mark and recapture to conservatively estimate a total of 5602 A. spelaea. When unexplored or inaccessible habitat was considered, they extrapolated the estimate to 56,000 individuals.
During 1995, Ammocrypta clara, formerly considered extirpated from Kentucky where the last of three records was collected in 1938, was found in the Green River in Mammoth Cave National Park and in the North Fork Kentucky River. The North Fork Kentucky River site has yielded only one specimen during several sampling efforts over the years, and the Green River population is localized based on previous efforts in the park. Ammocrypta clara will be added to the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission rare species list as endangered. Ammocrypta pellucida was also found at several sites in the North Fork Kentucky River where it previously had been collected only in 1925. One hundred seventeen sites within the upper Kentucky River drainage (mainly in the North and Middle forks thus far) have been sampled under contract with the Kentucky Department for Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to provide information about rare aquatic organisms for the coal mining permitting process. Of approximately 75 native fishes known from the North Fork drainage, 63 species have been collected recently, including all percids known from the drainage except Etheostoma maculatum. Additional sampling probably would narrow the difference further, suggesting that most of the North Fork fish fauna has survived 25 years of intensive strip mining for coal.
The Kentucky Department of Transportation is planning to reconstruct KY 119 along the upper Poor Fork of the Cumberland River in southeastern Kentucky. Channelization and other construction activities will impact the federally threatened Phoxinus cumberlandensis, the blackside dace, and one of two population centers for the endemic Etheostoma nigrum susanae, the upper Cumberland johnny darter.
Rick Mayden and Bernie Kuhajda at the University of Alabama report news of their efforts in Alabama. They continue to monitor the status of the Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni, Alabama cavefish, in Key Cave near Florence. The population appears stable, and Typhlichthys subterraneus, southern cavefish, continue to co-exist with the Alabama cavefish. Rick and Bernie are also continuing work on the Etheostoma zonistium complex. Graduate student Jessica Boyce is completing her thesis on activity patterns for different populations of E. tuscumbia, Tuscumbia darter, with comments on reproduction and diet.
Recent efforts to collect Erimystax cahni, slender chub, at known localities indicated that this species had disappeared again, and fears were mounting that this time it might be terminal. The UT ichthyology class collected and released one adult at Frost Ford on the Clinch River on 9 October, but no additional specimens were taken the following day. During the same two days of effort, four specimens of Noturus stanauli, pygmy madtom, were also caught and released--two from along the south shore and two along the north shore.
Chris Skelton (University of Tennessee student) completed his survey to determine the current status of the undescribed Phoxinus, recently known as 'laurel dace'. He concluded that the 'laurel dace' is currently known from four Tennessee River tributaries on the Walden Ridge portion of the Cumberland Plateau, Bledsoe County, Tennessee. Two populations occur in the Sale Creek system (Horn Branch of Rock Creek, Cupp Creek), one in the Soddy Creek system, and three in the Piney River system (Bumbee, Mocassin and Young's creeks). These systems enter the Tennessee River in Chickamauga and Watts Bar reservoirs.
Pat Rakes, Conservation Fisheries, Inc. (CFI), has completed his status survey of Fundulus julisia, Barrens topminnow. No new populations were discovered. Currently, there are four populations in the Cumberland River Drainage and one in the Elk River system of the Tennessee River Drainage. Only one of the Cumberland River populations is stable, and all are small, localized and tenuous. Pat made recommendations for long-term conservation of the species.
J.R. Shute and Pat Rakes (CFI) continued work begun by Brooks Burr (Southern Illinois University, Carbondale) to determine the status of the undescribed 'chucky madtom', Noturus sp. cf. elegans. Field surveys conducted through 1996 produced no additional chucky madtom populations. The 'chucky madtom' is currently known only from Little Chucky Creek, Nolichucky River system of the Tennessee River drainage (Greene, Co., TN), although the species is very rare, even in Little Chucky Creek.
The survey by J.R. Shute and Pat Rakes (CFI) for duskytail darters, Etheostoma percnurum, in the Big South Fork system of the Cumberland River, continued through 1996. In addition to the downstream range extension of duskytail darters in the mainstem of the Big South Fork, reported in 1996, the upstream range has been expanded by about two river miles.
In his resurvey of the fishes of the New River portion of the Big South Fork of the Cumberland, Brian Evans (University of Tennessee student) continues to find Etheostoma cinereum abundant. He also obtained specimens of Moxostoma macrolepidotum breviceps (first for the New) and M. carinatum (second for the Big South Fork, first from the Tennessee portion). Perhaps the biggest surprise was the collection of a second specimen of Noturus exilis--at Brimstone Creek. The 1953 specimen housed at CU, from the same site, had been treated with some skepticism.
In the Tennessee portion of the Upper Cumberland, Bo Baxter's (University of Tennessee student) continued work indicates that Notropis r. rubellus, Etheostoma baileyi, and E. sagitta are widespread and abundant. Etheostoma nigrum susanae, Cumberland johnny darter and Ericymba buccata, silverjaw minnow were only taken at one site.
Charlie Saylor and Ed Scott, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), report results of 1996 TVA surveys. Snail darters, Percina tanasi, are now distributed from the mouth of the French Broad River near Knoxville, upstream almost to Douglas Dam (about 30 river miles), and are relatively common in the lower end of this reach. They were also present again in the lower end of the Little River, near Maryville. In Virginia, E. acuticeps, sharphead darter, was collected again, in the South Fork of the Holston River, and its range was extended upstream. Percina macrocephala, longhead darter, was collected in the North Fork of the Holston River above Saltville. In Copper Creek, one live and one dead Noturus flavipinnis, yellowfin madtom, were observed, as well as one E. percnurum and several Percina burtoni, blotchside logperch. On the Tennessee side, C. monacha, spotfin chub, continues to be present in the Holston River at Surgoinsville, and E. acuticeps are still common in the Nolichucky River. They found P. macrocephala in Rock Creek of the Emory River system; this species hasn't been seen in the Emory system since the mid 1970's. In the Emory River, the distribution of C. monacha was extended upstream several river miles, to above the mouth of the Obed River. In the Alabama portion of the Tennessee River drainage, P. burtoni was extended up the Estill Fork of the Paint Rock River system almost to the Tennessee/Alabama state line. In 1997, in preparation for assessing subwatersheds and designating new River Action Teams, sampling efforts will be concentrated in the French Broad and Little Tennessee watersheds. Other sampling is scheduled for the Duck/Buffalo system, and tributaries of Kentucky, Pickwich, and Wilson reservoirs.
Captive propagation, reintroduction, and other management activities:
As mentioned above, anticipating that Etnier's recent Clinch River cahni find might be a preview to a few years of abundance, J.R. Shute and Pat Rakes will be using E. dissimilis as a surrogate to try to unlock the secrets of captive rearing of Erimystax.
Captive populations are being maintained at CFI for the following species: spotfin chub, Cyprinella monacha; blackside dace, Phoxinus cumberlandensis; Barrens top-minnow, Fundulus julisia; smoky madtom, Noturus baileyi; yellowfin madtom, N. flavipinnis; spring pygmy sunfish, Elassoma alabamae; boulder darter, Etheostoma wapiti; and duskytail darter, E. percnurum. The Tennessee Aquarium has obtained all necessary permits to assist in rearing C. monacha produced by CFI to stocking size.
No stockings were made in 1996 using captively produced boulder darters or blackside dace. As previously reported, C. monacha, N. baileyi, N. flavipinnis, and E. percnurum, were again captively propagated. Individuals produced in 1995 were stocked in late spring 1996, and individuals produced in 1996 will be stocked in spring 1997. To date, a cumulative total of more than 2500 C. monacha, 1000 N. bailey, 500 N. flavipinnis, and nearly 1000 E. percnurum have been reintroduced into Abrams Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, (Blount County, TN). For the second consecutive year, reproduction was documented for E. percnurum and N. baileyi. Three of the four reintroduced species (N. baileyi, N. flavipinnis, E. percnurum) were observed in Abrams Creek during the 1996 field season.
As recommended by Noel Burkhead to provide supplemental boulder darter spawning substrates, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and CFI placed more than 50 artificial structures at a boulder darter locality in the Elk River. These structures were placed in a variety of habitats and flow conditions. As more than 120 boulder darters have been captively produced, this management technique may be used to expand the range of the species within the Elk River, or augment existing populations.
Local and regional watershed activities:
The KSNPC continues to purchase land to establish a nature preserve to protect Terrapin Creek. This western Kentucky tributary to the Obion River contains Kentucky's most unique fish fauna. In cooperation with the Kentucky Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, KSNPC is drafting a strategic plan to protect the Green River from Green River Reservoir downstream to Mammoth Cave National Park as a bioreserve. More than 100 fish and 50 mussel taxa are known from this 100 mile river segment.
Peggy W. Shute and David A. Etnier