Dedicated to the Conservation of Southeastern Fishes
2002 Report of Region 4 - South Central
Frank Parauka of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Panama City, Florida reports that personnel from his office and John Allen of the National Fish Hatchery, Mississippi, spent 34 boat days of effort in 2001 attempting to capture Scaphirhynchus suttkusi in the Alabama River. Over 1600 fishes representing 24 species were collected using sinking gill nets and baited trot lines, with Carpiodes velifer, C. cyprinus, and Aplodinotus grunniens accounting for 65% of the catch. No Alabama sturgeon were collected, but two Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi were collected in May with gill nets 4.8 m deep. One fish escaped during retrieval, but the other was radio tagged and monitored moving upstream for two days. Attempts to relocate this fish in late May, June, and August were unsuccessful. Other work with Gulf sturgeon included a survey in the lower Choctawhatchee River in October and November to coincide with the fall migration to the marine environment. Sinking gill nets were set perpendicular to the bank, covering about 75% of the river. A total of 188 sturgeon were collected, PIT and Floy tagged, and released, with fish ranging from 52-229 cm TL and 0.45-72.9 kg. Sub-adults (< 18 km) represented 44% of the catch while large fish (> 45 kg) accounted for 8%, these data are similar to previous years surveys. A similar survey in Brothers River, a tributary of the Apalachicola River, captured 61 specimens ranging from 98-224 cm and 1.5-67.5 km. During these two surveys and a survey in the Yellow River, eight adult Gulf sturgeon were equipped with pop-up archival tags programmed to record depth, temperature, and light and downloadable to a satellite on a given date. These fish and nine others were also fitted with sonic tags. Two of the pop-up tags gave real time location of the fishes, one in Choctawhatchee Bay (tagged in Choctawhatchee River) and the other in the Gulf of Mexico east of Panama City (tagged in Yellow River). Sonic tag detection confirmed these localities, and located three other sonic tagged sturgeon in the Gulf of Mexico, ranging from 1.6-4 km off shore at a depth of 2.7-5 m. The two tags failed to release data on the pop-up date. Frank also reports that a survey for potential spawning habitat for Gulf sturgeon in the panhandle region identified 152 sites, with most of these in Alabama along the Conecuh, Pea, and Choctawhatchee rivers.
Carol Johnston at Auburn University reports that she is continuing her studies with sound
production in fishes. This includes geographic variation of sound in Cyprinella and
sound production in Scaphirhynchus with Cathy Nordfelt, and examining possible sound
production in cavefish with Jon Armbruster and Carrie Allison. Other studies include a status
survey of Pteronotropis euryzonus and the reproductive biology of Centrarchus macropterus with Michelle Castro and population viability of Etheostoma boschungi and E. brevirostrum with Wendi Hartup. Carol and Bryan Phillips are examining the recovery gradients of streams from small impoundments by using historical data from Bear Creek that Wall presented in his 1968 thesis. Other studies include surveys of Alabama streams and predicting diversity and density by physiographic region, the recovery of a swamp system after severe drought, and the status of E. phytophilum.
Bob Stiles at Samford University reports that he and Paul Blanchard have just finished a status survey of Etheostoma phytophilum in the Turkey Creek watershed of Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River. They found a small population in a spring fed creek located just upstream of Penny Spring; but none within Penny Spring proper, a historic site. The dominant darter in both locations was E. nuchale, which is non-native and was transplanted into the spring some years ago. In May 2001 no specimens were collected at the type locality (along Alabama Hwy 79), but resampling in October revealed a robust population. Bob and Paul also surveyed the historic site at Cove Spring in upper Locust Fork where one specimen was taken in 1975. Though the spring and the associated extensive wetland appear to be ideal habitat, none were found. Other news from Samford includes the first record of Percina sciera in the Cahaba River, collected by Mike Howell and his vertebrate zoology class at County Road 24 in Shelby County. This site includes a spring-fed swamp, and Elassoma zonatum, not seen here for a decade, was also collected.
Scott Mettee reports that the Geological Survey of Alabama in Tuscaloosa (Pat O'Neil, Tom Shepard, and Stuart McGregor) continues with the sonic tracking of several species of riverine fishes in the Alabama River. A survey of Locust Fork documented the distributions of Notropis cahabae, Percina brevicauda, and Etheostoma douglasi within the drainage. Sampling at 39 stations produced Cahaba shiners in 61 river miles of the main channel from the first shoal upstream of the embayment of Bankhead Lake upstream to Nectar in Blount County. Cahaba shiners were also taken in the lowermost 5 miles of Blackburn Fork. Coal darters were taken in the same 61-mile range of the main channel of Locust Fork, but in only the lower 4 miles of Blackburn Fork. Etheostoma douglasi was taken over 70 river miles from the first shoal upstream of the Bankhead Lake embayment upstream to Swann Covered Bridge in the main channel of Locust Fork, as well as in Turkey Creek, Gurley Creek, and Blackburn Fork. A survey for these three species in the Mulberry Fork system as well as evaluating biological conditions using the IBI is ongoing. Thus far, 51 collections have produced no records of N. cahabae or P. brevicauda in Mulberry Fork, and E. douglasi was found only in upper Sipsey Fork, Brushy Creek, and Blackwater Creek. The Geological Survey completed a forth year of sampling of tributaries of the upper Tombigbee River and the first of several years of sampling in the main channel of the Tombigbee for listed and candidate species of freshwater mussels. A GSA report of results of sampling in the Tombigbee tributaries is in preparation with assistance from U.S. Forest Service Hydrology Lab in Oxford, Mississippi. Mussel research published, in press, or presented at meetings includes the current status of mussels in the vicinity of Muscle Shoals on the Tennessee River, changes in the mussel fauna of Bear Creek in northwestern Alabama and northeastern Mississippi, and mussel fauna of the Sipsey River and the Cahaba River. Lastly, GSA is continuing to monitor populations of Alabama cave shrimp, E. tuscumbia, and associated water quality parameters at Redstone Arsenal, Madison County.
Mark Peterson at the Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, is working on the spatial and temporal distribution, species associations, and trophic interactions of invasive tilapiine fishes with recreational freshwater fishes in south Mississippi along with Todd Slack of the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson. Mark has begun several estuarine projects, including identifying essential fish habitat in the Grand Bay National Research Reserve (with C. Rakocinski), using otolith microchemistry to determine important geographic sources of juvenile nursery habitat (B. Comyns, C. Rakocinski, and A, Shiller), and examining the improvement of sustainability and nekton utilization in coastal salt marshes by gapping material levees (D. Reed). Additionally, Mark, along with Steve Ross at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, will begin mapping coastal habitat parameters in the Pascagoula River estuary as a tool to protect and preserve coastal habitat diversity and sustainability. Other mapping projects include coast-wide mapping of the highly invasive common reed, Phragmites australis, and mapping and quantifying shoreline habitat types in association with coastal and estuarine waterfront development (with B. Comyns). Recent publications by Mark include field growth responses of juvenile Cynoscion arenarius to continuous variation in physical habitat conditions, reproductive biology and differences among estuaries of female C. nebulosus in the northern Gulf of Mexico, the status and habitat characteristics of Fundulus jenkinsi in eastern Mississippi and western Alabama coastal bayous, and. the use of Bryozoa as an ephemeral estuarine habitat and a larval transport mechanism for mobile benthos and young fishes in the north-central Gulf of Mexico.
David Etnier at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville reports that graduate student Ben Keck is redoing the fishes of the Hatchie River system. Ben has added Ameiurus nebulosus and Ctenopharyngodon idella to the Hatchie fauna so far. Dave and his regional faunas class collected the Mississippi River in the Dyersburg, Tennessee to Carruthersville, Missouri area in October. Significant finds included a juvenile Notropis boops from a seine sample, Macrhybopsis meeki from a small trawl, and Scaphirhynchus albus (or a hybrid) from a gill net. Dave promised the 20+ participants a fish fry, but by week's end only three small channel catfish had been collected. Not to be deterred, a 35-lb Hypophthalmichthys nobilis and a 25-lb C. idella were chunked into appropriate sizes, corn-mealed, and cooked in deep fat fryer, both ranked as better than the channel catfish cooked the same way. Ets recommends completely removing the red streak; bones were so big that they were no problem.
Pat Rakes reports that Conservation Fisheries, Inc. (CFI) of Knoxville, Tennessee, continues its successful propagation of Notropis cahabae and Percina aurolineata from the Mobile Basin. These listed species are needed by the EPA to conduct toxicity studies as part of an effort to evaluate the protectiveness of water quality criteria for the Cahaba River ecosystem in Alabama. Techniques were developed and refined to deal with egg recovery and incubation and the extremely small size of both species' larvae. Larvae of Cahaba shiners (1,300) were successfully shipped to EPA last year, but no larvae of goldline darters survived any mode of shipping attempted. The pelagic behaviors and microhabitat requirements of the darter larvae were likely responsible for this mortality. Potential refinements will be tested next year with the goldline darter to address these shortcomings. Pat also reports that CFI observed the normal numbers of rare species (Cyprinella caerulea, Etheostoma brevirostrum, Percina jenkinsi, and P. sp. cf. macrocephala) in a Conasauga River survey for the Cherokee National Forest.
At the University of Alabama Steve Powers appears to have an undescribed species of E. pyrrhogaster endemic to the Forked Deer River in western Tennessee. Steve also has preliminary data indicating genetic partitioning among disjunct populations within E. cinereum. David Neely continues his work on North American sculpins, with an emphasis on Mobile Basin forms. Phil Harris has submitted papers on molecular relationships of the Moxostomatini with Rick Mayden at Saint Louis University, and molecular relationships within Centrarchidae, within Lepomis, and within Ambloplites with Rick and Kevin Roe (SLU). David, Phil, and Rick are also looking at the genetic variation within the Noturus munitus complex. Other projects at Alabama include a status survey of Etheostoma sp. cf. zonistium within Bear Creek and intra-specific variation within species of Scaphirhynchinae.