Southeastern Fishes Council
Dedicated to the Conservation of Southeastern Fishes

2000 Report of Region 3 - North-Central
Status surveys and other interesting finds

Ed Scott (TVA) reported that snail darter (Percina tanasi) distribution and abundance continue to improve in the Douglas tailwaters in the lower French Broad River. Adults were found at all sites sampled from French Broad River mile 8 to mile 29.8, almost to Douglas Dam. The tailwater community is also improving in other ways, as tangerine and bluebreast darters (Percina aurantiaca, and Etheostoma camurum) were collected there for the first time in 1999. In addition, two blue suckers (Cycleptus elongatus) were also collected by students at Tennessee Tech. in this stretch of river. Speaking of the French Broad River, Etnier (University of Tennessee) also commented on the continued improvement of the Douglas and Cherokee tailwaters, and reports the collection of wounded darters (Etheostoma vulneratum) for the first time in the Little Pigeon River about two miles downstream of Sevierville (Sevier Co., TN).

Etnier also remembered some interesting accidental introductions into the French Broad and Nolichucky rivers in western NC that we forgot to mention in earlier reports (he is getting on in years!). He said "it looks like someone got a truck full of fishes from the Piedmont and dumped them in the French Broad! Charlie (Saylor) thinks they might be getting flushed out of the big pond at the Biltmore estate." These include chain pickerel and flat bullhead (UT 38.180 and 48.966, respectively), French Broad River Miles 145 & 150, Buncombe Co. NC, July 1997; two additional localities for Ameiurus platcephalus, Newfound Creek and Swannanoa River, added to 48.966; Nocomis leptocephalus, from Cane Cr., Mitchell Co. NC, June 1977 (UT 44.8552); Gambusia holbrooki, Mud Cr., Henderson Co. NC, April 1997 (UT 61.236); and Lepomis gibbosus, French Broad River Mile 150 and Hobson Cr. of Ivy Cr., Buncombe Co. NC, June/July '97 (UT 90.2531). In the Nolichucky system, he noted the following introductions: Ameiurus platycephalus from two localities in the Cane River, Yancey Co. (UT 48.981); Clinostomus f. funduloides, North Toe River, Yancey Co. (U.T.44.8555).

Ed Scott also reported some interesting finds from the Duck and Buffalo rivers: abundant coppercheek darters and a lone ashy darter (Etheostoma aquali, and E. cinereum) in Flat Creek, near Shelbyville, Bedford Co., TN; several coppercheek darters in the Normandy Dam tailwaters of the Duck River where only a single individual was collected in 1998; slenderhead darters (Percina phoxocephala) also still present in the Duck River at Williamsport (Maury Co., TN); and blotchside logperch (Percina burtoni) and ashy darters in the Buffalo River near Flatwoods, TN (Perry Co., TN). Also, although Citico Creek (Monroe Co., TN) seems to have been well studied, Ed also reported the first record of wounded darters (Etheostoma vulneratum, UT 91.5566) from upper portions of the stream.

Charlie Saylor (TVA) reported that his crews sampled fish from close to 200 stream sites during the 1999 field season as part of TVA's watershed monitoring program. One of the most interesting finds was the first record of slackwater darter (Etheostoma boshungi) in Limestone Creek watershed in Alabama. Charlie also reported that Chris Underwood collected an American eel (Anguilla rostrata) in the Nolichucky River in North Carolina, which was probably a bait bucket introduction.

Ramon Martin and Jim Layzer (Tennessee Technological University) reported results of a biotelemetry study of lake sturgeon as part of a multi-agency partnership to reestablish a reproductively viable lake sturgeon population in the lower French Broad River and in the mainstem Tennessee River near Knoxville, Tennessee. In August 1999, they released six radio-tagged (external) lake sturgeon that had been reared at Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery, Warm Springs GA. The externally-tagged fish were detected 9-24 days after release. One internally tagged individual was still detected 159 days after release. Net downstream movement averaged nearly 40 km, and all but one of these fish were known to have migrated out of the French Broad River, and into Fort Loudoun Reservoir.

R. Shute, Pat Rakes, Bo Baxter (CFI) surveyed the Elk River system looking for boulder darters (Etheostoma wapiti). They found boulder darters in a few new localities in the mainstem Elk River where appropriate habitat was present, but did not find any new tributary populations. They did rediscover boulder darters in lower Richland Creek. None were found above Harms Mill dam, a significant barrier a few miles below Fayetteville, suggesting they may have been extirpated from the reach of the Elk River upstream of the dam and are unable to recolonize.

Following up on reports that consultants had turned up specimens of an unidentified Phoxinus in a tributary to the Clinch River (Tazewell County, VA) in February 1999, Chris Skelton and Steve Holdeman surveyed a Clinch River tributary in Russell County in September 1999. The stream where the Phoxinus were originally reported is on coal mine property, and not easily accessible. Live individuals of this dace are in aquaria at CFI. Chris has determined that the fish are either the undescribed "laurel dace" or something very close. He will be looking for breeding individuals in spring 2000.

Chris also followed a tip provided by Steve Fraley, at TVA, that P. tennesseensis had been collected in a Powell River tributary in Lee County, VA in 1995 by TVA surveyors. No specimens were retained, so Chris re-visited the site in fall 1999. The species turned out to be P. cumberlandensis, which had been previously known only from the Cumberland River drainage. Leroy Koch of the USFWS is trying to organize a status survey for the species in southwestern Virginia.

CFI's surveys of the Little River, Blount County, TN revealed that tangerine darters (Percina aurantiaca) are abundant, blotchside logperch and longhead darters (P. burtoni and P. macrocephala, respectively) are still "relatively common", but ashy darters (Etheostoma cinereum) are very rare. Duskytail darters (E. percnurum) were found to be still hanging on at the TN Hwy 33 bridge and a single individual, the first seen in over a decade, was observed upstream at the U.S. 411 bridge. Additional surveys will be conducted to determine this species' status in the nearly 10-mile reach between the two sites (lack of access requires fishing, oops!, floating).

Bernie Kuhajda (University of Alabama) reported that he and Kevin Roe, a new post-doc in Rick Mayden's lab, recently completed a survey for additional populations of the Alabama cavefish (Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni) in caves along the Tennessee River in northern Alabama. Jim Godwin of the Alabama Natural Heritage Program combined some of his surveys of caves for the Tennessee cave salamander with these fish surveys. This survey was inspired by their discovery of southern cavefish (Typhlichthys subterraneus) sympatric with Alabama cavefish, as reported last year. They found several populations of southern cavefish, but no Speoplatyrhinus. However, they did discover what appears to be a new species of cave shrimp in two caves just west of Tuscumbia.

Scott Mettee, of Geological Survey of Alabama (GSA) reported that his crew is finishing for GSA publication a manuscript on Tennessee River fishes in north Alabama and northeast Mississippi. This report, containing records from 1,188 fish samples collected at 761 stations from 1845 through 1998, will add some interesting new distribution records to Mettee et al. (1996). The TVA/GSA sample team collected the most species ever taken from the TVA Bear Creek site on the Natchez Trace. He also reported that although they didn't get another Cycleptus elongatus, the electroboat team, composed of Captain Ed Scott and deck swabber Scott Mettee, did collect several interesting species during the sample, among which were Carpiodes carpio, C. velifer, and Percina phoxocephala. Shoal Creek will be a priority sampling area for the GSA's TVA work in spring 2000.

Lastly, if the "creek don't rise" a host of North American ichthyologists will descend on the lower Duck River to set a record for the most fish species collected in a short river reach in North America. Dates are slated for 3 and 4 June. Bob Jenkins has volunteered to be the principal contact, just in case you are interested and have been able to thus far avoid the reams of e-mails cluttering cyberspace.

Mussels & other aquatic critters of interest

Dick Neves (Virginia Tech.) reported that the techniques and technology for mussel propagation has been worked out over the last 10 years, funded cooperatively by the States of Tennessee and Virginia, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Biological Resources Division of the U. S. Geological Survey. The Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Center at Virginia Tech is a prototype facility, with a holding room for adult mussels and host fish research, a room for production of juveniles, an algae culture room, and a greenhouse for rearing of juvenile mussels. Juveniles are usually reared for several weeks before being released to sites approved by TWRA and USFWS. The Buller Fish Hatchery in Marion, VA has recently come on board as a cooperator to provide raceway facilities for grow-out of mussel species state-listed in Virginia.

Of importance to the Southeastern Fishes Council, Neves noted that, after years of host fish identifications for a suite of endangered mussels, it has become evident that darters, minnows, and sculpins are what sustain most of the reproduction of these endangered species. For example, glochidia of riffleshell species (Epioblasma spp.) such as the oystermussel and Cumberlandian combshell transform best on banded and black sculpins, and redline darters. Similarly, glochidia of the fanshell transform most successfully on greenside darters and Percina spp.(logperch, tangerine darter, blotchside logperch). Other mussel species that spawn only in summer such as pigtoes (Fusconaia spp.) tend to use various species of cyprinids almost exclusively. All of their host fish research makes it evident that the world class diversity of freshwater mussels in the Tennessee River system is sustained by the high diversity of the indigenous fish fauna, or what non-biologists and fishers would consider inconsequential, nongame species. Recovery of these federally listed mussels cannot occur without the healthy and diverse assemblage of these fish species. In 1998, Neves' lab produced, cultured, and released roughly 35,000 endangered juveniles of 6 federally listed mussels, produced from induced infestations of glochidia on host fishes. In 1999, they released nearly 135,000 endangered juveniles of eight species, from literally hundreds of infested host fishes, into the Clinch, Powell, and Hiwassee rivers in eastern Tennessee. They hope to be able to release approximately 100,000 juveniles of various endangered mussel species each year, if they are able to collect the gravid females of target species. Evaluations of the success of this release program will begin in summer 2001.

David Withers (TN Heritage Program) reported that his work with many partners (Sequatchie & Marion County governments, a local quarry, TDOT, a barge company, a crane company, cement company, and more) to enhance habitat of the endangered royal snail (Pyrgulopsis ogmorhaphe) continues in Sequatchie and Jasper, Marion Co., TN. At Sequatchie, this work has included installation of a cable fence to keep ATV's out of Owen Spring in Sequatchie, and replacing the exotic chines privet with native vegetation (or attempting to!). This is also the area where the recently described caddisfly (Glyphopsyche sequatchie, Etnier & Hix) is found. At Jasper, the work has included trapping beavers to maintain the spring-run habitat required by the snail.

David also reported surveys for several rare crayfishes. These surveys include surveying new and historic sites for Cambarus williamsi, (known only from Brawley's Fork, Cannon Co., TN) in fall 1999. He and April Hannah have also done surveys for a rare, troglobitic crayfish, Orconectes incomptus, and have found it still present at one of the historic locales - Haile Cave, Jackson Co., TN. David plans to continue surveys for both of these crayfish in 2000. He is also planning to re-survey the more headwater streams reported on O'bara's 1985 Orconectes shoupi survey, Mill Creek drainage, Davidson Co., as these headwater areas in the metropolitan Nashville area are being rapidly developed.

Captive propagation, reintroduction, and other management activities

Pat Rakes and J. R. Shute (Conservation Fisheries, Inc., CFI) report that they still maintain captive populations of: Cyprinella caerulea; C. monacha;; Notropis mekistocholas; N. cahabae; Phoxinus cumberlandensis; (gone); Fundulus julisia; Noturus baileyi; N. miurus; N. flavipinnis; Elassoma alabamae; E. boehlkei; Etheostoma wapiti; E. percnurum; E. luteovinctum; Percina copelandi; and P. aurolineata. In addition to those reported last year, recent successful captive spawnings include Notrops cahabae, Noturus miurus, and Elassoma boehlkei.

As previously reported, spotfin chubs, smoky and yellowfin madtoms, and duskytail darters (C. monacha, N. baileyi, N. flavipinnis, and E. percnurum), were again captively propagated and reintroduced into Abrams Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, (Blount County, TN). For the fifth consecutive year, reproduction was documented for E. percnurum and N. baileyi, and individuals of all four reintroduced populations were observed on most monitoring surveys. Etnier reported that during the Park Service's annual 3-pass depletion study in Abrams last fall they got several individuals of C. monacha and two E. percnurum; in 1998 they got C. monacha and a lone N. baileyi.

Pat & J.R. report that the status of Fundulus julisia, Barrens topminnow continues to be tenuous. For two consecutive years, droughts have stressed the population at the type locality (near McMinnville, Coffee Co., TN) to the point that rescue has been necessary. In fall 1999 the type locality pond dried up completely, and Pat & J.R. rescued about 100 Barrens topminnows which are currently in captivity at CFI's hatchery. These will be restocked in the pond when conditions are better.

Dick Biggins (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Asheville, NC) reported that he has written three proposals to reintroduce listed fishes. These include a stretch of the Tellico River (Monroe Co., TN), where he proposes to reintroduce smoky and yellowfin madtoms, spotfin chub, and duskytail darter. The spotfin chub, slender chub, pygmy and yellowfin madtoms, and duskytail darter are proposed for reintroduction into the Douglas Reservoir tailwaters of the French Broad River. And, spotfin chub and boulder darter are proposed for reintroduction into Shoal Creek (Lawrence Co., TN & Lauderdale? Co., AL). Public comments have been received on all these proposals, but none have been finalized yet. The Tellico River proposal is currently being reviewed in the Washington, D. C. office, the French Broad proposal is in review in Atlanta, and the Shoal Creek proposal is being reviewed in the Asheville office of Fish & Wildlife Service.

Dick also reported that a draft document which outlines a coordinated strategy for the conservation and recovery of southeastern imperiled fishes has been prepared by himself and Vince Mudrak (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Warm Springs, GA). This document was compiled with input from over 60 fish and aquatic ecology experts who attended a workshop in Chattanooga, TN in October 1999. The goal of this document is to identify the problems faced by southeastern imperiled fishes, to summarize the suggestions of the workshop attendees as to specific goals and tasks needed to reverse the declines, and to help agencies, organizations, and individuals identify the types of conservation and recovery tasks that they could implement in order to assist in the momentous task of conserving the Southeast's imperiled fishes. This regional strategy, when finalized will probably be available on the web, and a separate document, for more general consumption, may also be produced.

Peggy W. Shute and David A. Etnier