Fish Community Information
Since the late 1930's, the fishes of the Black River basin have been sampled with seines and electrofishing equipment. Fish distribution data is available from 91 seine sites in the lower subbasin and 45 seine sites in the upper subbasin (Table Bc01). Seine samples provide the qualitative and quantitative indicators that can best define fish communities. Electrofishing has been used at ten sites in the lower subbasin and five sites in the upper subbasin (Table Bc01). Electrofishing emphasized the collection of 'sport" fishes such as the black basses, suckers, and sunfishes, with little attempt to collect nektonic or benthic fish species. Locations of sample sites in Table Bc01 are identified by "river mile", which can be found at MDC Southeast Regional Office.
Combining all sampling methods, a total of 132 fish species representing 20 families have been collected in the Black River basin (Table Bc02). In the lower subbasin, 130 fish species have been collected. In the upper subbasin, 64 fish species have been collected. The difference in the number of species in each basin is due to physiographic location of the subbasins. The lower subbasin lies in both the Ozark and Lowland Faunal Regions, while the upper subbasin lies only in the Ozark Faunal Region. Both faunal regions have species unique to each region (Pflieger 1997).
One hundred twenty eight species representing 20 families have been collected (Table Bc03). Blackspotted topminnow, green sunfish, and longear sunfish are the most widely distributed fish species (Table Bc03). They were collected at 80%, 74%, and 71% of the sites, respectively.
The cypress minnow and the pallid shiner haven't been collected since 1941and should be considered extirpated (Table Bc04). Both of these species are considered lowland species (Pflieger 1997) and their absence is probably due to habitat degradation associated with channelization of the lowland streams. The goldstripe darter should also be considered extirpated from the subbasin (personal communication, Matt Winston, MO Dept. of Conservation). Eight species collected earlier have not been collected since 1975 (Table Bc04). Of these eight, inadequate sampling is probably the explanation for the absence of the southern redbelly dace, Johnny darter, chestnut lamprey, American brook lamprey, and river darter. These species have sporadic distribution in Ozark streams or live in habitats difficult to seine (Pflieger 1997). The goldfish and fathead minnow are not native to this area and were probably introduced via bait bucket.
From 1974 to 1996, 30 electrofishing surveys were conducted on the Black River, Cane Creek, and Tenmile Creek (Table Bc01). Overall, 45 species in 13 families have been collected by electrofishing (Table Bc05). Of these 45 species, only the flier hasn't been collected in Black River. In Cane and Tenmile Creeks, 22 and 16 species were collected, respectively. Centrarchids (primarily longear sunfish) and catostomids (primarily golden redhorse) comprised the majority of the fish samples (Table Bc05). In the Black River and Cane Creek, spotted bass were the most abundant black bass. In Tenmile Creek, smallmouth bass were the dominant black bass.
Sixty four fish species in 14 families have been collected (Table Bc03). Bleeding shiners and rainbow darter were the most widely distributed species (Table Bc03). They were collected at 73% and 69% of the sample sites, respectively. Eleven species were collected from at least 50% of the sites. Only two fish species (Ozark shiner and the least brook lamprey) were found exclusively in this subbasin. The southern redbelly dace is also found primarily in this subbasin.
The freckled madtom, brindled madtom, eastern redfin shiner, and speckled darter have not been collected since 1945 and should be considered extirpated (Table Bc04). The walleye and American eel should be considered extirpated because Clearwater Dam inhibits their access to these streams. An additional nine species have not been collected since 1976. Of these nine, the freshwater drum and chestnut lamprey probably were not captured due to sampling inefficiencies of seines. Pflieger (1997) lists the gilt darter and Ozark shiner rare, if not extirpated from the Black River basin. The bullhead minnow is a lowland species and prefers sluggish pools and low gradient streams - a rare habitat in this subbasin (Pflieger 1997). The absence of brook silverside and golden shiner from recent samples is puzzling because these species are relative common in Ozark streams.
From 1988 to 1997, 10 electrofishing surveys were conducted on the Black River, East Fork of the Black River, Middle Fork of the Black River, and the West Fork of the Black River. Twenty-one species in six families have been collected (Table Bc06). In all rivers, centrarchids dominated the samples. The most abundant centrarchids were longear sunfish, shadow bass, and smallmouth bass (Table Bc06). Excluding the East Fork of the Black River, smallmouth bass were the most abundant black bass. The fish community in the East Fork may be influenced by Lower Taum Sauk Lake. Largemouth bass were the dominant black bass and bluegill were abundant in the East Fork.
As expected, due to the physiographic location of the subbasins, species richness is higher in the lower subbasin. In the lower subbasin, 12 crayfish species have been collected (Table Bc07). In the upper basin, only three species (woodland, Hubbs, and spothanded) have been collected. The woodland crayfish is the dominant crayfish in the basin (Pflieger 1996). The northern crayfish was probably introduced into the basin via bait bucket (Pflieger 1996). Habitat loss due to channelization in the in the lower subbasin is likely responsible for the decline of several lowland species, such as shield, cajun, Shufeldt's dwarf, and vernal crayfish (Pflieger 1996).
The development of mines, mills, and smelters to process minerals in the New Viburnum trend impacted several streams in the upper subbasin. Benthic invertebrates are good indicators of water quality because most species, especially mayflies and stoneflies, cannot tolerate poor water quality. To document the changes in water quality, the benthic invertebrate communities in Strother Creek, Bee Fork, Neals Creek, Logan Creek, Bills Creek, Brushy Creek (control stream) and the West Fork of the Black River have been intensively sampled since the 1960s. As of 1981, aquatic invertebrate diversity and densities in Strother Creek, Bee Fork, and Neals Creek have improved, but not to premining levels (Trial 1983). In Bills Creek and the West Fork of the Black River, diverse benthos populations above and below the mines indicated good water quality.
Mussels are excellent environmental indicators. Therefore, the presence of a diverse mussel community may indicate stable conditions, low siltation, and good water quality and habitat.
In the lower subbasin, a diverse mussel community exists (Table Bc08). Forty species of mussels have been found in the Black River. Mussel surveys have also been conducted in Cane Creek (23 species) and Tenmile Creek (3 species).
In the upper subbasin, only five species (giant floater, fatmucket, northern broken-ray, squawfoot, and Asiatic clam) have been collected (Buchanan 1996). Buchanan (1996) attributed the poor mussel diversity due to unstable substrate in these streams.
Federal and State Listed Species
No federally endangered fish are present in the basin (Table Bc09). Since the settlement of Missouri, many species have declined to levels of concern and some have disappeared entirely (Missouri Natural Heritage Program 2000). Twenty-six fish species found in the Black River basin are of particular concern due to population declines or apparent vulnerability from a statewide perspective (Table Bc09). The status of each of these species in the basin is discussed below. For additional information regarding Missouri animals of concern, go to Missouri Animals of Conservation Concern.
•cypress minnow: According to Pflieger (1997), historically this Lowland species was common in the lower Black River. However, according to MDC files only 28 individuals have ever been collected in the basin and these came from one site in 1941 (Table Bc02).
•Mississippi silvery minnow: This minnow is common throughout the lower Black River subbasin (Tables 8 and 9) and has been collected as recently as 1994.
•pallid shiner: Once common in the Lowlands, this species has declined, and is probably extirpated from Missouri (Pflieger 1997). Increased siltation associated with land use practices is the suspected cause of its decline.
•taillight shiner: Pflieger (1997) describes this minnow as one of the rarest Missouri minnows and may soon be extirpated in the state. In the lower Black River subbasin, this minnow was found at seven locations in the late 1990's (Table Bc02).
•Ozark shiner: This species should be considered extirpated because no individuals have been captured in 40 years (Tables 6 and 8). Pflieger (1997) attributes the construction of large reservoirs, resulting in habitat loss and range fragmentation as the likely cause for the decline of the Ozark shiner.
•sabine shiner: In Missouri, the sabine shiner has been collected only from the Black River in Butler County (Pflieger 1997). In the 1990's, this shiner was collected at 13 locations (Table Bc02).
•pugnose minnow: Primarily a Lowland species, this minnow may have increased in numbers in recent decades (Pflieger 1997). Pugnose minnows are widely distributed in the lower subbasin (Table Bc02).
•eastern slim minnow: This rare minnow has been recently collected from only the Black River and Castor River (Pflieger 1997). Reservoir construction is the suspected cause of the extirpation of this species from the St. Francis River and White River basins (Pflieger 1997). In 1999, this minnow was collected from three sites on the lower Black River (Table Bc02).
•mountain madtom: This species is naturally rare in Missouri (Pflieger 1997), but in the 1990's it was collected at five locations in the lower Black River (Table Bc02)
•western sand darter: Pflieger (1997) noted that this darter is common in the Lowland ditches, but not abundant anywhere in Missouri and may be declining in numbers. In 1999, 32 individuals were collected from nine sites in the lower Black River (Table Bc02).
•scaly sand darter: The scaly sand darter is primarily a Lowland species, but exists in adjacent Ozark sections and has apparently declined in recent decades (Pflieger 1997). This species is relatively common in the lower subbasin (Table Bc03). It is primarily found in the Black River, but it has also been found in Cane Creek (1999) and Menorkenut Slough (1998) (Table Bc02).
•crystal darter: Although never common, this Lowland darter has been collected during the 1990's at nine sites in the lower subbasin (Table Bc02).
•swamp darter: According to Pflieger (1997), this Lowland darter exists in Missouri only in the lower Black River subbasin. During the 1990's, it was collected at seven locations (Table Bc02).
•harlequin darter: This Lowland species is one of the rarest darters in Missouri (Pflieger 1997). In 1999, this darter was collected at 12 sites on the lower Black River.
•goldstripe darter: This rare darter has only been collected from Romine Spring (Pflieger 1997). Recent sampling of Romine Spring (1995), indicate that this darter is probably extirpated from Black River basin.
•longnose darter: According to Pflieger (1997), this rare darter exists only in the White River and the upper St. Francis River subbasin. In 1999, Matt Winston (MDC Fisheries Research Biologist) collected a longnose darter in the lower Black River (Table Bc02).
•river darter: Historically, this darter was common in large ditches and Lowland streams (Pflieger 1997). In the Black River basin, only one specimen has been collected in the lower subbasin (Table Bc02).
•stargazing darter: This darter is one of the rarest fishes in Missouri, having been collected on a few occasions from the Current River and the lower Black River (Pflieger 1997). During the 1990's, this darter was collected at three locations on the lower Black River (Table Bc02).
•blue sucker: This species is fairly common in the lower Black River as documented by electrofishing surveys.
•flier: Fliers occur almost exclusively in the Lowlands and are naturally uncommon and sporadic in distribution (Pflieger 1997). However, this species was probably more common prior to the draining of the Lowlands. The most recent collection occurred in 1999 on Big Cane Creek, where 17 individuals were collected (Table Bc02).
•dollar sunfish: This Lowland species is quite similar to longear sunfish and is probably overlooked during sampling (Pflieger 1997). In the late 1990's, dollar sunfish were collected at four sites in the lower subbasin (Table Bc02).
•bantam sunfish: Pflieger (1997), found bantam sunfish only in the Mingo Swamp, which is in the St. Francis River basin. In 1999, Matt Winston (MDC Fisheries Research Biologist) collected 13 individuals in Big Cane Creek in the lower Black River subbasin (Table Bc02).
•starhead topminnow: Pflieger (1997), only found this topminnow in the St. Francis River basin. In 1999, 20 starhead topminnows were collected in Big Cane Creek and 10 in Little Cane Creek (Table Bc02). Both of these streams are lowland streams located in the lower Black River subbasin.
•American brook lamprey: This is the rarest of the brook lampreys found in Missouri (Pflieger 1997). In the Black River basin, only one specimen has ever been collected (Table Bc02).
•mooneye: Mooneye have been collected in the lower Black River during electrofishing surveys (Tables Bc02 and 11). Pflieger (1997) noted that it has never been common in Missouri and may be declining.
•paddlefish: This species is fairly common in the lower Black River as documented by MDC fish population surveys.
All of the listed crayfish (Table Bc09) are considered Lowland species and the probable cause for their decline is habitat degradation due to channelization and drainage of wetlands.
The Curtis pearlymussel and pink mucket are Federally Endangered (Table Bc09). Because no fresh materials of the Curtis pearlymussel have been found since 1971, Buchanan (1996) considers this species extirpated from the Black River. Altered stream flows due to the construction of Clearwater Dam is a possible reason for this species decline. In 2000, Sue Bruenderman (MDC Fisheries Research Biologist) found two live pink muckets in the Black River near Poplar Bluff. The southern hickorynut is one of the rarest mussels in Missouri and has been collected in Cane Creek (Oesch 1984).
Angler Survey Data
The Missouri Statewide Angler Survey (Weithman 1991) is the main source of creel information for the basin streams (Table Bc10). Accurate estimates of angler pressure, catch, and harvest can not be made where the number of angler interviews is low. However, raw survey data which partitions angler species preference, effort, success, and satisfaction can help describe angler utilization.
During the period 1983 to 1988, 698 Black River basin anglers were surveyed. The most common angler preference was black bass, followed by "anything" and catfish. The fishing quality rating ranged from 2 to 8 with an average of 5 (10=best).
To determine angler harvest rates of Black River walleye, MDC personnel tagged 406 walleye with reward tags between 1995 and 1998. As of October 2000, 75 tags have been returned for payment. Several additional tags were reported, but not returned. Angler exploitation, assuming angler compliance and tag retention are 80%, was estimated to be 12% per year (range 4-17%).
Based upon angler tag returns, walleye are quite mobile. Only 50% of the walleye were caught at the original tagging site. Anglers reportedly caught three walleye in the Current River and one walleye in the Little Red River in Arkansas (100+ river miles). Based upon angler tag returns and MDC sampling, walleye densities appear to be the highest in a two mile section of river downstream of Clearwater Dam.
In 1996 and 1997, MDC personnel interviewed paddlefish snaggers on opening weekend of the snagging season. The survey was conducted on the Lower Black River, just downstream of Clearwater Dam. Catch rates in 1996 and 1997 were 0.4 and 0.1 paddlefish/hour, respectively.
From 1944 to 1948, a total of 112,312 largemouth bass, 35,590 smallmouth bass, 92,400 bluegill, 56,500 green sunfish, 24,000 rock bass, 2,750 black crappie, 38,000 channel catfish, 15,000 bullheads, and 17,000 minnows were stocked in basin streams (Funk 1953). The majority of these fish were fingerlings size. The goal of these stockings was to increase fish densities, thus increase angler catch rates. These stocking had little, if any effect upon the fish populations (Funk 1953). Since then, numerous private ponds throughout the basin have been stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, grass carp, crappie, channel catfish, and other species.
In 1965 and 1967, an unknown number of striped bass fry and fingerlings were stocked into Lower Taum Sauk Lake, but a striped bass fishery did not develop there. Conservation agents documented anglers catching striped bass in the Clearwater Dam tailwater.
In 1998 and 2001, 200 muskellunge were stocked into Lower Taum Sauk Lake. This stocking program was cancelled in 2003 because an adequate muskellunge population did not develop.
Between 1996 and 2000, 1.3 million walleye fry were stocked into the lower Black River just downstream from Clearwater Dam. These were surplus walleye fry from the St. Francis River and Eleven Point River walleye restoration projects. In 1999, a three year lower Black River walleye stocking program was initiated. The goal was to determine if supplemental stockings in a river system is a feasible method to increase walleye densities. A total of 30,000 walleye (2")
were to be released at six sites between Clearwater Dam and Poplar Bluff (~45RM). Due to production problems, walleye have only been stocked in 2000 (7,719 fingerlings) and in 2003 (41,490 fingerlings).
Between 1998 and 2000, 1,507 paddlefish (12-14") were stocked downstream of Clearwater Dam. All of these fish have a coded wire tag in their rostrum to determine movement, growth, and impact on the local fishery. Some of these paddlefish have been captured in subsequent years by MDC personnel and anglers below Clearwater Dam.
Excluding Tenmile Creek, statewide fishing regulations apply to all streams in the basin. In Tenmile Creek, a Special Smallmouth Bass Management Area was established in 2000 from Highway B in Carter County downstream its confluence with Cane Creek in Butler County. In this section, all smallmouth bass less than fifteen inches (15") must be released immediately. The daily black bass limit is six (6), but only one (1) may be a smallmouth bass.