Southeastern Fishes Council
Dedicated to the Conservation of Southeastern Fishes

2001 Report of Region 4 - South Central
Mel Warren at the Southern Research Station, USDA Forest Service in Oxford, Mississippi reports that he, Andy Sheldon (visiting research scientist), and Wendell Haag have initiated a yearlong study examining the colonization by small-stream fishes of wood bundles placed in two channelized and two unchannelized streams in north Mississippi. They are examining colonization in mid-channel and near the bank with depth and flow as covariates. Susie Adams is leading a study of fish recolonization of first through third-order streams in north Mississippi that dried up during the 2000 drought. She is also examining longitudinal changes in growth and fecundity of certain groups of darters and minnows in the Sipsey Fork and Brushy Creek in Bankhead National Forest, Alabama. Fish density and richness was much lower in spring 2001 than during 1994 sampling, possibly due to last summer's drought. Susie is also beginning a study with Steve Ross, University of Southern Mississippi, in examining the distribution and habitat use of Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi, Alosa alabamae, and Anguilla rostrata in Black and Red creeks, De Soto National Forest, Mississippi. The Oxford crew is also conducting the third summer of fish and fish habitat surveys in Mississippi National Forests. To date, 148 sites have been sampled yielding about 110 species. On the mussel front, Wendell Haag is leading the third year of a study on the population size, age and size structure, size and age-specific fecundity, mortality, individual growth rates, and recruitment rate for about twelve species in the Sipsey River in Alabama, and the Little Tallahatchie and Buttahatchee rivers in Mississippi. The ultimate goal is to build population models that will evaluate how changes in these variables influence population growth rate and viability. Mel also reports that his group will be repeating a 1993 survey of mussel communities in Bankhead National Forest with a goal of deriving an accurate picture of the size structure of some populations. Research on Shoal Creek in Talladega National Forest, Alabama, will continue examining the headwater populations of mussels highly fragmented by a series of small dams, which includes two T & E species. Additional mussel studies include an attempt to identify fish hosts for several species from the Buttahatchee River, Mississippi. Along with Chuck Lydeard and Jen Buhay at the University of Alabama, the Oxford crew is continuing a study on patterns of host fish use and genetic variation across the range of Villosa vanuxemensis, V. lienosa, and V. ortmanni, which have shown some surprising patterns, especially in the upper Coosa River drainage. And finally, Andy Sheldon is finishing a yearlong comprehensive survey of stoneflies in two watersheds of the Ouachita Mountains at 38 stations. About 31 species have been identified; high species richness has been noted from seasonally dry streams, and several range extensions have been documented.

Jan Hoover reports that the Waterways Experiment Station (WES) Fish Team in Vicksburg, Mississippi continued field surveys of all three Scaphirhynchus species with varying degrees of success. Efforts to capture S.suttkusi for broodstock were part of a massive interagency effort. Despite setting numerous baited trotlines as well as one multi-organizational 24-hour fish-a-thon at the Claiborne Lock and Dam, none were collected. Sturgeon studies by WES in the lower Mississippi River were substantially more productive. From August to December 2000, hundreds of S. platorynchus were collected as well as six indisputable S. albus. For each sturgeon, data were recorded on geographic position, water quality, river morphometry, co-occurring fish species, and any morphological anomalies. To date, approximately 5% of shovelnose sturgeon collected exhibited some kind of deformity including missing tails, reduced pectoral fins, missing eyes, and curved spinal columns. One sturgeon was missing a rostrum. Numerous sturgeon were encircled by rubber bands, either around the rostrum or around the pectoral girdle, causing varying degrees of injury or debilitation. Other research by WES includes sampling streams of the Yazoo River system in Mississippi to determine long-term effects of dredging and weirs on fish assemblages.

Mark Peterson at the Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, Mississippi has co-authored four papers on marine and estuary fishes. These studies have examined laboratory and field growth responses of juvenile Mugil sp. and Cynoscion arenarius, respectively, using various ambient conditions, as well as the effects of habitat alterations on habitat use by early life history stages of fishes and crustaceans. Four other papers are in review on additional estuarine fishes and their habitat, reproductive biology, and status. Mark will graduate two masters students and his first Ph.D. student this year.

J.R. Shute reports that Conservation Fisheries (CFI) of Knoxville, Tennessee has been successfully spawning Percina aurolineata again this year; they have collected more eggs than ever before. Work still needs to be done on survivorship of the hatchlings, specifically getting the pelagic larvae to feed properly. Three P. aurora (a male and two females) were obtained from the crew at the University of Alabama, who collected these specimens this spring from the Leaf River. Although it appeared these darters were almost done with their spawning season, CFI managed to collect a few fertilized eggs and hatch them out. The information gained from this trio should help lay the groundwork for future spawning activities. Lastly, CFI has been successfully spawning Etheostoma chienense with relative ease. This species spawns under the surface of ceramic tiles in the tank, and the larvae are relatively easy to rear as they feed well on brine shrimp nauplii.

Scott Mettee of the Geologic Survey of Alabama reports that the second printing (3,000 copies) of Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin, including several important corrections, is available from the publication sales office at the Survey. Scott and Royal Suttkus have released a Survey Bulletin examining four species of Notropis within the subgenus Pteronotropis, with comments on relationships, origins, and dispersion. Pat O'Neil and Tom Shepard published two Survey reports last year, one on water-quality assessment of the lower Cahaba River watershed and another on application of the index of biotic integrity for assessing biological condition of wadeable streams in the Black Warrior River system. Tom and Pat are completing reports on a water-quality study in Locust Fork and a land use/biomonitoring study in Mulberry Fork, both of which will be published by the Survey. They will initiate a study on the status of Notropis cahabae, Etheostoma douglasi, and Percina brevicauda in Locust Fork this summer. Stuart McGregor published one paper last year on recent mussel records from the North River system. He also has two papers in press, one on the mussel fauna of the Muscle Shoals area co-authored with Jeff Garner (ADCNR) and another on the mussels in the Cahaba River with Malcolm Pierson and Pat O'Neil. Stuart and Jeff are also conducting mussel surveys in the upper Tombigbee River proper and several of its major tributaries, and Stuart is continuing his Alabama cave shrimp monitoring project at Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville. The entire Survey crew will be involved in completing level 3 (IBI) fish bioassessments for TVA in north Alabama and will continue their biological sampling for EPA 319 projects in Lightwood Creek in south central Alabama and Choccolocco Creek in northeast Alabama. Finally, the sonic tracking work with Cycleptus meridionalis continues to produce some interesting data on fish movements in the Alabama River. The project was expanded last year to include sonic tagging of a few Moxostoma carinatum and Ictiobus bubalus, and Scott will continue tagging these species this year, as well as Polyodon spathula. One unexpected opportunity this year was the tagging of the first M. carinatum (a 515 mm SL female) ever collected downstream of Claiborne Lock and Dam.

Malcolm Pierson reports that Alabama Power Company is involved with divers using surface-supplied air to search for T & E mussels below all of the Coosa River hydro projects. These projects must be relicensed by 2007 if they are to continue operation. They are finding several species of mussels in these tailwater habitats, but to date, no T & E species have been observed. Malcolm also reports that Alabama Power has begun fish and mussel surveys in the original Coosa River channel below the Weiss diversion dam with assistance from the USGS Florida Caribbean Science Center and the Alabama Cooperative Fisheries and Wildlife Research Center. Preliminary reports should be available in late 2001.

Carl Couret of the USFWS in Daphne, Alabama reports that a collaborative effort between the his agency, World Wildlife Fund, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Corps of Engineers is underway to explore fish passage options at Claiborne Lock and Dam on the Alabama River. Options range from structural approaches (i.e., nature-like bypass channel, slotted/baffled "ladder", and fish lift) to more economic non-structural approaches (i.e., modified locking operations). Since these facilities are not passing a significant number of barges, Carl believes they could be operated to pass fish, at least during critical times of the year. A trial "passage" was recently performed, and gill netting of fishes leaving the upstream gates demonstrated low numbers of specimens but a respectable diversity. Species captured included typical big-river ichthyofauna, as well as two species of diadromous fishes, Alosa alabamae and Morone saxatilis. This trial operation demonstrated excellent potential for this project. Data on the movement of several fish species within the Alabama River are being gathered by the Geologic Survey of Alabama to assist in further development of this fish passage concept.

Frank Parauka of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Panama City, Florida reports that a survey of Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi was conducted in the lower Choctawhatchee River during October and November 2000, to coincide with the species fall migration from freshwater to the marine environments. Sinking gill nets were set perpendicular to the riverbank and covered about 75 percent of the river. A total of 196 Gulf sturgeon were collected, weighed, measured, tagged (external Floy tags and injected PIT tags) and released. The fish ranged from 0.8 - 2.3 m total length and weighed from 2.2 - 66.7 kg. Sub adults (<18.1 kg) represented 38.8 percent of the sample and large fish (>45.4 kg) accounted for 11.7 percent of the catch. The two largest fish were equipped with external LTD (light, temperature, depth) archival tags, which are able to fix the location of the specimen by calculating the angle of the sun. The fish must be recaptured in order to retrieve the tag and download the information. Frank's office is also conducting a survey to determine the availability of Gulf sturgeon spawning habitat in Florida panhandle river systems. The objective is to create a map identifying sites that have characteristics (steep bluffs, limestone outcroppings, hard substrate, etc.) similar to previously documented Gulf sturgeon spawning sites. Frank also reports that a 17 minute video describing the life history and biology of the Gulf sturgeon, as well as the recovery efforts underway to restore the species to a level that would ultimately result in its delisting, was completed in 2000. The video was produced by Earthwave Productions in cooperation with the Fish and Wildlife and the US Army Corps of Engineers. Frank's office also coordinated the distribution of 2 million Phase I Morone saxatilis raised at Federal and State hatcheries in FL, GA, AL, MS and LA. The fish were stocked in river systems and impoundments throughout the southeast. In addition, over 100,000 Phase II (150 - 200 mm) specimens were stocked in the lower Apalachicola River. Lastly, Frank reports that his office and offices in Daphne, AL, and Baton Rouge, LA expended 65 field days in an effort to capture Scaphirhynchus suttkusi in the Alabama River. Ninety- five percent of the sampling effort in the Alabama River was between River Mile 39 and 65.5, with the remainder at River Mile 22. Baited trotlines and sinking gill nets were used to collect over 1,900 fish representing 25 different species, but no Alabama sturgeon were collected.

Carter Gilbert at the University of Florida in Gainesville reports that he and Rick Mayden, along with Steve Powers, are actively pursuing descriptions within the eastern Macrhybopsis aestivalis complex. Three of the four eastern species are new, and Carter has written a taxonomic key, diagnoses, and descriptions for all four species; Rick and Steve are working on genetics and statistical analyses of morphometric data. Carter has been receiving a number of old collections dating back to the 1870's and 1880's from Butler University that were discovered just a few years ago. Included are a number of O. P. Hay collections from Mississippi and Kansas, the results of which were summarized in three publications (two in Proc. USNM and one in Bull. U.S. Fish Commission) between 1881 and 1887. Also included are a few lots from west Florida (published by Hay in Proc. USNM in 1885). In addition, there are substantial remnants of a number of late-1870's Jordan collections from Georgia and South Carolina, mostly from the Saluda River near Greenville. A few types are present, including some previously thought to have been destroyed in the Indiana University fire of 1883. Also present are some lots received on exchange from the USNM; a few types are also present in these materials. Jordan started the collection during the couple of years he spent at Butler, and curation was later done by Hay. Carter is cataloguing these into the University of Florida collection. When he is done, Carter plans to publish this information along with the history of the Butler collection. Lastly, Carter and Jim Williams are revising the Audubon fish field guide, originally published about 20 years ago. Jim is handling the freshwater fishes and Carter is tackling the marine species; they should complete this project this summer.

Steve Walsh at the U.S. Geological Survey in Gainesville, Florida reports that he is continuing his involvement in a USGS National Water-Quality Assessment project to examine land-use patterns along a land-urban gradient in the Mobile Basin (Birmingham area) and the effects on water quality. Water quality will be assessed with hydrology, hydrochemistry, and biological conditions (fishes, benthic invertebrates, algae, and habitat). This work is in conjunction with the Alabama office of the USGS Water Resources Division; Humbert Zappia is the collaborating biologist involved in this study. Steve has targeted 30 sites in the limestone/dolomitic portion of the Valley and Ridge province along a southwest to northeast swath of the Cahaba and middle/upper Coosa rivers that encompasses a broad gradient of varying levels of urbanization. All streams are first or second-order and were seriously affected by drought last year. Within Florida, Steve expects funding from the state for a one-year survey of the Escambia River for Moxostoma carinatum, Crystallaria asprella, and Hybognathus hayi. Due to these species limited ranges and low abundance, all are of special concern in the state.

At the University of Alabama, the big news is that Rick Mayden will be leaving later this summer to chair the Department of Biology at Saint Louis University and to assume an endowed chair research position. The opportunity to take a leadership role in a department and to move back to his home area was too good for Rick to pass up. I will be staying on as Collections Manager to continue the operations at UAIC until another Curator can be hired next year. Rick and Herb Boschung have secured the Smithsonian Press as a publisher for The Fishes of Alabama, and the project is nearing completion. Rick and his students and staff continue research on the systematics, conservation, and ecology of all three Scaphirhynchus species, Notropis cahabae, Catostomidae, several Noturus species, Lepomis megalotis, all Centrarchidae species, Etheostoma ditrema, snubnose darters, and several logperch species.

Bernie Kuhajda