Dedicated to the Conservation of Southeastern Fishes
1998 Report of Region 3 - North-Central
Status surveys and other interesting finds:
The current status of Erimystax cahni, slender chub, is still unknown. No additional specimens have been collected since the one adult collected by Etnier and class at Frost Ford on the Clinch River in October last year (1996).
Tim Broadbent of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) reported what is surely an Atlantic needlefish (Strongylura marina) from the Tennessee River (Kentucky Reservoir) at the New Johnsonville Steam Plant, a few miles below the mouth of the Duck River. The specimen is on its way to U.T., but has not arrived at this writing.
Don Harris, American Aquatics, Norris, identified a large bighead carp captured by fishermen in the Town Creek embayment of Guntersville Reservoir last summer.
Two populations of Gambusia holbrooki have turned up in east Tennessee, one in the Pistol Creek system of Little River and the other in the Baker Creek system of the Little Tennessee River, both in Blount County.
Etnier's Regional Faunas class determined that specimens of Noturus nocturnus from the lower Mississippi river proper are not waifs-they live in the riprap areas along with Percina shumardi and adult Macrobrachium ohione in the Dyersburg, Tennessee area.
Pat Rakes, Conservation Fisheries, Inc. (CFI), reports that the current status of Fundulus julisia, Barrens topminnow, is still extremely tenuous. Currently, there are cooperative efforts between CFI, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and the Tennessee Aquarium for long-term conservation of the species that might include reintroductions within the historic range of the species.
J. R. Shute and Pat Rakes (CFI) surveyed portions of Copper Creek of the Clinch River system, in Virginia for the Virginia Game & Inland Fisheries and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. They were searching for Noturus flavipinnis, yellowfin madtom. Only a few individuals had been seen at a single locality in recent years. They observed several individuals (including young of year) at various localities as result of snorkel surveys. This survey will continue in the 1998 field season, and attempts to delineate the current range of the species within Copper Creek, and to estimate the overall status of the population will be a part of the effort.
Charlie Saylor, Ed Scott, and Amy Wales, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), report results of 1997 TVA surveys. Ed Scott surveyed the fish community in the tailwaters of several TVA dams, and reported the following. As a result of the first year of a ten year study in Douglas Tailwater related to turbine upgrades at Douglas Dam on the French Broad River, Ed found that Percina tanasi continues to be 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. Fifty-five individuals were captured between river miles eight and 14. Cycleptus elongatus was also taken from within this reach of the French Broad River. The ten-year study was developed after snail darters were found from the mouth of the French Broad River near Knoxville, upstream almost to Douglas Dam (about 30 river miles) in 1996. See below for additional comments about this stretch of the French Broad River. Ed also reported single redband and coppercheek darters from the tailwater of Normandy Reservoir, Duck River Mile 241. He also reported that the fish community in the tailwaters of Tims Ford Reservoir (Elk River) appeared much improved in 1997, with several darter species (9) present there. Habitat also exists for boulder darters (see below).
Amy Wales reported collections of Etheostoma cinereum and Percina burtoni from several localities in the Duck River system. Charlie Saylor reported that Percina burtoni appears to have a strong population in White Oak Creek, (as many as 13 stream miles), a tributary of lower Kentucky Lake. He also reports that Macrhybopsis aestivalis was found in the Nolichucky River upstream from Davy Crockett Reservoir and from French Broad River above Douglas Reservoir, which considerably extends the range of the species. TVA crews also collected one Erimystax insignis at the French Broad site. Saylor also reported that Scott Mettee (Alabama Geological Survey), in surveys for TVA, collected Cycleptus elongatus in Bear Creek, AL, near Pickwick Reservoir backwaters.
Scott Mettee (Alabama Geological Survey) reported that they conducted approximately 90 level-1 fish bioassessments in the southern bend area of the Tennessee River drainage, which expands the number of stations and samples in this area to 140 and 300 since the Alabama fish book was published. As part of this effort, they added new distribution records for Percina phoxocephala (two collections) from the Bear Creek system, and the first hands-on records of Notropis photogenis in Shoal Creek.
Jeff Garner (Alabama Game & Fish) and Stuart McGregor (Alabama Geological Survey) reported several significant finds of endangered mussel species in the Alabama portion of the Tennessee River drainage. These include: white wartyback (Plethobasus cicatricosus) and pink mucket (Lampsilis abrupta) in the mainstem Tennessee River below Wilson Dam; Cumberland combshell (Epioblasma brevidens) and fine-rayed pigtoe (Fusconaia cuneolus) in Bear Creek.
Captive propagation, reintroduction and other management activities:
Captive populations are being maintained at CFI for the following species: Cyprinella caerulea; C. monacha; Erimystax dissimilis; Notropis mekistocholas; Phoxinus cumberlandensis; Phoxinus sp. (Laurel dace); Fundulus julisia; Noturus baileyi; N. miurus; N. flavipinnis; Elassoma alabamae; Etheostoma wapiti; E. percnurum; E. luteovinctum; and Percina copelandi. Recent success in captive reproduction include C. caerulea and P. copelandi. The P. copelandi are intended as surrogates for attempting captive propagation of the rare P. aurora; N. miurus is a surrogate for N. flavipinnis; and E. dissimilis is a surrogate for E. cahni. The Tennessee Aquarium has been assisting in rearing C. monacha produced by CFI to stocking size. Recent successful captive spawnings include C. caerulea and P. copelandi.
The goal of maintaining these captive populations is to refine techniques for working with more rare species and to produce young for attempts at reintroducing the species at appropriate localities within their natural ranges, or augmenting natural populations. However, some captively produced offspring are being used for water quality/toxicity testing. These include N. mekistocholas, C. monacha, and C. mekistocholas.
The Tennessee Aquarium has produced a plan to propagate and reintroduce Acipenser fulvescens at appropriate localities within Tennessee, with support from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Resources Agency. A probable site for the initial transplant of the sturgeons will be the forks of the river area in Knoxville, where, as noted above, improvement in water quality in both the lower French Broad and lower Holston rivers has occurred.
No stockings were made in 1997 using captively-produced blackside dace. A total of 120 captively-produced boulder darters were stocked at Hamilton Mill on the Elk River (Giles Co., TN) in May (and eight were collected at the same site in less than an hour in September). As previously reported, C. monacha, N. baileyi, N. flavipinnis, and E. percnurum, were again captively propagated. Individuals produced in 1996 were stocked in late spring 1997, and individuals produced in 1997 will be stocked in spring 1998. To date, a cumulative total of more than 2500 C. monacha, nearly 1500 N. bailey, 500 N. flavipinnis, and more than 1300 E. percnurum have been reintroduced into Abrams Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, (Blount County, TN). For the third consecutive year, reproduction was documented for E. percnurum and N. baileyi. Three N. baileyi nests were observed during the 1997 field season, and several young of year E. percnurum were also observed.
As recommended by Noel Burkhead to provide supplemental boulder darter spawning substrates, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and CFI placed more than 175 artificial structures at a boulder darter locality in the Elk River. These structures were placed in a variety of habitats and flow conditions. More than 120 captively-produced boulder darters were stocked in these areas, with the intent of augmenting existing populations. Bob Hatcher (TWRA) is very interested to see if this management technique shows promise, because it may be used in attempts to expand the range of the species within the Elk River, or when attempting to reintroduce the species into other streams within their historic range. Hatcher seeks recommendations from other experts concerning additional rare southeastern fish species that might be aided by installation of artificial structures.
Dick Neves (VPI) has been successful in propagating mussels, including the endangered tan riffleshell (Epioblasma walkeri); in cooperation with TWRA, TVA and the U.S. Forest Service, several captively-produced individuals were stocked in the Hiwassee River (dewatered area above Appalachia powerhouse) to augment an existing population there.
Jim Layzer (Tennessee Tech. Univ.), in cooperation with TWRA, USGS, and FWS stocked several species of common mussel species in the Douglas tailwater area of the French Broad River. This was done to test habitat suitability prior to attempting to establish rare mussels in this area.
Local and regional watershed activities:
Watershed association activities were initiated in the Conasauga and Little River (mainstem Tennessee River tributary near Knoxville) systems. The Little River association was initiated by the TVA River Action Team, in cooperation with state and local organizations. The Conasauga association was initiated by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and has also had involvement from many federal, state (both GA and TN) agencies, and local groups. Both of these associations are evolving to become their own entities, separate from the federal or state agencies. Leslie Collie (TNC) reported on several projects that are underway in the Conasauga and the Clinch watersheds. These include work with the Chattahoochee National Forest to relocate the Cottonwood Patch Horse Camp (on the banks of the Conasauga River just upstream from the mouth of the Jacks River); improving blue shiner habitat; work with five local landowners to establish riparian buffer; and coordination with the local utility to reduce impact of a water line installation on coldwater darter habitat. She also reports that TNC's three year old Clinch River Community Project is going well, with over 30 individual projects in place in the watershed.
Peggy W. Shute and David A. Etnier