Biotic Community

Selection of subwatershed segments, subsegments, and representative reaches for fish sampling was based on stream order, flow, and stream complexity. Fisheries personnel evaluated the fish community on all third-order or larger streams (Figure Hc01 in habitat chapter). In addition, site selection procedures consisted of

1.constructing gradient plots of potential areas to aid in the selection of sites with varying gradients, a topographic map or aerial photos for surrounding land use and access to sites, and

3.viewing video tapes of the watershed areas.

Final selection was based on relative differences of the areas and access to the sites. For ease of stream assessment and avoidance of trespass, a ford or a bridge was often near or part of a site.

Fish Community

Fish community collections were made by the Fisheries Research and Fisheries Management sections. A variety of microhabitat types were sampled within a riffle-pool-riffle complex. On occasion, a run was included in the sample site. Depending on the site, biologists worked up or down stream of the ford, bridge, or access point until habitat within the riffle-pool-riffle complex had been sampled. Fisheries Research Section typically used the drag-seine for pool and run areas and the kick-seine to sample benthic species in riffles. East Central Region Fisheries Management Personnel performed stream sampling of reaches using a backpack electroshocker or a boat boom-electroshocker. Regional Fisheries Staff used electrofishing as the primary sampling method and supplemented some collections with seining.

A total of 90 fish species have been collected by Missouri Department of Conservation fisheries biologists from 1941-96 (Table Bc01). In historic fish collections, prior to the 1995-96 collections, fisheries biologists found 81 fish species.

Research and the 1995-96 Fish Collections

In the 1995-96 survey, nine additional fish species were added to the list: freshwater drum, highfin carpsucker, fantail darter, chestnut lamprey, smallmouth buffalo, bigmouth buffalo, warmouth, western redfin shiner, and freckled madtom. However, seven fish species (bolded on Table Bc01) have not been collected in the watershed since 1963 or 1941. These include the pallid shiner that is considered extirpated from Missouri (Pflieger 1997) and has not been collected since 1941. One state-listed endangered species, the highfin carpsucker (Carpiodes velifer), was collected in the 1995-96 collections.

The Bourbeuse River tends to be more turbid and less steep in gradient than other Ozark streams. It is home to most of the popular sport fish found in Missouri. Most float anglers fish the Bourbeuse in the spring, before base flows limit their ability to move between access points. Many anglers fish the river from its banks or fish only the pool along their private property, especially during the low water periods.

The black bass and rock bass populations have been sampled extensively, especially in those reaches below Highway 185. Smallmouth bass densities are relatively high with a good proportion of fish larger than the 12-inch minimum length limit. Eighteen-inch or larger fish can be found in association with cover, deep water, and current. Largemouth bass are also present in every pool. In any given sample, the largest bass would almost always be a largemouth. Found only below Goodes Mill in samples taken during the early 1990s, spotted bass have progressively been sampled farther upstream. Now they can be found all the way up the river to the Noser Mill Dam and will likely continue to expand their range further upstream. Spotted bass body condition has thus far been excellent. Because spotted bass are relatively new to the river system, it is difficult to determine whether they are occupying a niche created by the degradation of habitat or they are displacing one of the other black bass species. Rock bass can be found throughout the watershed, however, they do not represent a significant component of the fish samples except in the lower river near Union.

Channel catfish and flathead catfish have not been targeted for any extensive management evaluations to date. Typically, catfish species were collected while doing other investigations. Good numbers of channel catfish are apparently available, and channel catfish larger than three pounds are fairly common. Moderate fishing pressure occurs for channel catfish using both rod and reel as well as set and trot lines. Flathead catfish are caught by anglers in the lower portions of the Bourbeuse River.

Walleye and sauger are present in the river. Some population investigations have occurred during their spring spawning run. River walleye are difficult to sample due to the effect of temperature and flow on the timing of their spawning. Age and growth analysis from these evaluations indicate a self-sustaining, but low density population, with excellent growth. Local anglers have commented that walleye do not seem to spawn every year below Noser Mill. Sampling done in that reach supports their claim. Most of the walleye sampled during our evaluations were male and exceeded 18 inches total length. Most Bourbeuse River walleye are caught by anglers fishing for other species, especially black bass. Sauger are common below the I-44 Bridge. Almost all sauger caught in the Bourbeuse River were yearlings, indicating that it is an important nursery area to the Meramec River sauger population.

Redhorse and suckers are abundant in the Bourbeuse River. Anglers target them during two seasons of the year. It is popular sport to drift night crawlers in the shoals in March and April. However, the majority of redhorse and suckers are harvested by giggers, especially late in the season when the water clears.

Rainbow trout are found in Kratz Spring Branch and the lower end of Spring Creek in Franklin County. A few trout can be found in the Bourbeuse River below Spring Creek year round. These trout range up and down the river some distance from Spring Creek during the cold weather months. Several small trout were captured in the run below Noser Mill during a March sample. Only trout in the Bourbeuse River are available to most anglers, as trespass rights are strictly controlled along Spring Creek and the Kratz Spring Branch.

Longear sunfish are common throughout the Bourbeuse River, though few grow large enough to harvest. Bluegill are found in the slower portions of the large pools and many exceed seven inches. Black and white crappie occur in the Bourbeuse River, though black crappie are the dominant species. Like rock bass, they are not evenly distributed but are abundant when located, especially in the segment below the Goodes Mill Dam.


A total of 39 species of mussels have been collected in various historic surveys of the Bourbeuse River and three of its tributaries, Brush Creek, Dry Fork, and Little Bourbeuse River (Buchanan 1980). Thirty-seven living mussels species of the 39 species were collected in the 1977 and 1978 survey (Buchanan 1980) of the watershed (Table Bc02).

Cumberlandia monodonta (Missouri species of conservation concern) and Cyclonaias tuberculata were collected in previous surveys but only as dead specimens in the 1977 and 1978 survey. In the 1977 and 1978 Bourbeuse River survey, Buchanan noted that the main stem Bourbeuse River had favorable habitat for naiades throughout its reach, only a few sites were completely devoid of mussels. The Lampsilis radiata luteola was the most abundant (largest % composition) within the Bourbeuse River watershed and all its tributary watersheds (Table Bc02). It may be found in almost any type of substrate from moderate to slow moving water (Oesch 1995). The Lampsilis ventricosa and Anodonta g. grandis were well represented in all watersheds.

In a more recent surveys in the Bourbeuse River and two of its tributaries, Brush Creek and Dry Fork, 31 living mussel species and five dead mussel species were collected by MDC Fisheries Research from 1994-97 (Table Bc03). In the 1997 survey 26 sites were assessed, and 18 sites were reassessed to compare to the 1977 and 1978 survey (Roberts and Bruenderman 1999). Five new species, Lampsilis siliquoidea, Pleurobema sintoxia, Pyganodon grandis grandis, and Utterbackia imbecillis, were discovered in neither the historic surveys nor the 1977 and 1978 survey but were found in the 1997 survey of the Bourbeuse River. Anodonta imbecillis, Anodonta g. grandis, Simpsonaias ambigua, Amblema p. plicata, Pleurobema coccineum, Plagiola lineolata, Ligumia subrostrata, Lampsilis radiata luteola, Lampsilis ventricosa, and Lampsilis reeviana brittsi were not collected in the 1997 survey but were found in the 1977 and 1978 surveys. Cyclonaias tuberculata was collected as a dead specimen in the 1977 and 1978 survey, but in the 1997 survey, researchers discovered live specimens. Quadrula quadrula and Strophitus undulatus were collected in the historic surveys but not in the 1977 and 1978 survey. Four state-listed species of conservation concern, Alasmidonta marginata, Epioblasma triquetra, Leptodea leptodon, and Plethobasus cyphyus were discovered in the main stem Bourbeuse River. The two Bourbeuse River tributaries were home to few mussel species, only Lampsilis siliquoidea, Venustaconcha e. ellipsiformis, and the Amblema plicata were collected.

In the 1997 survey, the most abundant living mussel species in the Bourbeuse River from most to least abundant were Actinonaias ligamentina carinata, Venustachoncha ellipsiformis ellipsiformis, Pleurobema sintoxia, Quadrula pustulosa, and Lampsilis siliquoidea (Roberts and Bruenderman 1999). As stated above, the most abundant species in the 1977 and 1978 survey was Lampsilis radiata luteola. While relative abundance of mussels within the 18 reassessed sites was lower in the 1997 survey than in the 1977 and 1978 survey, mussel abundance within the new survey sites was comparable with abundance within 1977 and 1978 survey sites. Changes in species composition and abundance in the Bourbeuse River have been attributed to many factors, such as accelerated erosion, water quality degradation, in-stream gravel mining, and channelization. In addition, natural causes of decline, such as disease and drought, impact mussel species composition and abundance. Site selection and sampling methods can also affect estimation of species composition and abundance.

Some notable differences in species were reported in the Bourbeuse River as compared to the Big and Meramec rivers. Buchanan (1980) found that the Lampsilis radiata luteola, uncommon in the Big and Meramec rivers, comprised 29.7% of the living mussels collected in the Bourbeuse River. Buchanan also found that the dominant species located in Brush Creek, Dry Fork, and the Little Bourbeuse River were different from those of Courtois Creek, Huzzah Creek, and the Mineral Fork subwatersheds. Nine species (Lampsilis radiata luteola, Actinonaias ligamentina carinata, Lampsilis ventricosa, Elliptio dilatata, Venustaconcha e. ellipsiformis, Amblema p. plicata, Fusconaia flava, Anotonda grandis grandis, and Pleurobema coccineum) comprised 83.3% of the living naiades collected in Bourbeuse River. In the 1997 survey by Roberts and Bruenderman, Cumberlandia monodonta comprised a higher portion of individuals in the Meramec River than in the Bourbeuse or Big rivers. Cumberlandia monodonta, Amblema p. plicata, and Megalonaias nervosa were less common in the Bourbeuse River than in the Big and Meramec rivers, while Venustachoncha ellipsiformis ellipsiformis was more common.

Freshwater mussels are declining at an alarming rate throughout North America, and have been for many decades (Bruenderman, personal communication). A combination of factors are responsible for the decline in the Bourbeuse River mussel community since it was last sampled 20 years ago. The shifting unstable stream bottom and the excessive siltation, caused by poor land-use practices are not tolerable to mussels (Bruenderman 1998). Bruenderman believes that the mussel decline has been ongoing and that reproductive failure has gone unnoticed because the remaining adults have created the illusion of healthy conditions.


During surveys conducted from 1983-86, Fisheries Research collected 5 species of crayfish in the Bourbeuse River watershed. Table Bc04 contains a summary of the streams surveyed, the number of specimens, and the % composition of species at each survey site. The spothanded crayfish (Orconectes punctimanus) was collected at each of the survey sites throughout the watershed.

Found in association with the spothanded crayfish, the golden crayfish (Orconectes luteus) often was more abundant than the spothanded crayfish.

The northern crayfish (Orconectes virilis), which is well distributed throughout the state (Pflieger 1996), was found in abundance at a site on Webber Creek in the Lower Bourbeuse River HU. Crayfish species diversity was best at Webber Creek in the Lower Bourbeuse River HU (Table Bc05). Richness was highest on Brush Creek where there were three species of crayfish, and the number of specimens were fairly even among the three species.

Benthic Insects and Other Invertebrates

In a 1964 Missouri Department of Natural Resources water quality report, benthic invertebrate sampling provided indication of water quality conditions of the watershed (Table Bc06). Using biological indicators such as benthic invertebrates, biologists were able to rate the Bourbeuse River watershed stream segments near sampling stations. Pollution intolerant benthic invertebrates are the stonefly, caddisfly, mayfly, and gilled snails. The slightly pollution tolerant forms are the dragonfly and the damselfly nymphs (see list on last page of Table Bc06). At the Highway B Bridge of the Bourbeuse River in Phelps County, biologists reported fauna representing clean water. One such fauna, the mayfly, Stenonema tripunctatum, was found in great numbers,. At two Bourbeuse River sites, near Strain and Franklin County Highway H Bridge and the Noser Mill, benthic fauna were and unpolluted conditions (MDNR 1964). Various intolerant forms of invertebrates were found at the Bourbeuse River Union station and Bourbeuse River confluence with the Meramec River station. Altogether, 43 types of organisms at the Union station and 57 types at the confluence station were found (MDNR 1964).

Tributaries to the Bourbeuse River such as Brush Creek, Dry Fork, Red Oak Creek, and Boone Creek were sampled for the same pollution indicators. Brush Creek had high production of macroinvertebrates, including sensitive forms of Ephemeroptera, Trichoptera, and to a lesser extent, Plecoptera. In the remaining three tributary sample sites, biologists concluded that the presence of a number of the sensitive organisms in sufficient quantity was a good indication of the high quality of the sampling station. However, a particularly alarming find was the absence of mussels in the Red Oak Creek and Brush Creek sampling stations. Heavy metals from an Owensville plating plant were the likely cause in the Red Oak Creek area (MDNR 1964). No explanation was given for the lack of mussels in the Brush Creek sampling station, although in all cases it is unknown whether any mussels were ever present.

Fish Species of Concern

The disappearance of some fish species from the Bourbeuse River watershed is due to several factors, but the largest contributor may be habitat alteration. A locational list of the sensitive species (see Habitat Section, Rare and Endangered Species) within the watershed can be found within the Natural Heritage Database (the database is updated periodically with recent locations and new species). In 1995-96 fish collections, the highfin carpsucker (Carpiodes velifer), state-listed species of conservation concern, was collected.

Highfin Carpsucker. The highfin carpsucker is considered rare in Missouri and over the years has become less common (Pflieger 1997). The highfin carpsucker prefers clear water, firm bottoms, and is less tolerant of turbidity and siltation than other carpsuckers. In the 1996 collection, the highfin carpsucker was collected in the Bourbeuse River (T43N, R1E, S27, 34, 35).

•Two species, mottled sculpin and silverjaw minnow, that were species of concern prior to 1998 are no longer being monitored by MDC because of improvements in their numbers.

Mottled Sculpin. The mottled sculpin occurs to the exclusion of the Ozark sculpin in the Meramec River subwatersheds (Pflieger 1997). The mottled sculpin favors cold-water habitat and is often found in spring branches. In 1963 and 1995, the mottled sculpin was collected in Spring Creek (T41N, R2W, S4).

Silverjaw Minnow. The silverjaw minnow has a limited distribution in Missouri, and is found in shallow, sandy stretches of clear permanent-flowing streams that are either in the Meramec system or direct tributaries of the Mississippi (Pflieger 1997). Collected in 1963 at Spring Creek (T41N, R2W, S4), the silverjaw minnow was again collected in the 1995 at the same site. In the 1995 collection year, the silverjaw minnow was also found at a site on Big Creek (T42N, R3W, S15).

•According to Pflieger (1997), the silverjaw shiner seems to be the ecological counterpart to the bigmouth shiner and replaces this species in the clearer and more stable streams of the Mississippi Valley from Missouri eastward. The bigmouth shiner has not been collected in the Bourbeuse River since 1963 (Table Bc01).

•Pallid Shiner. The pallid shiner has not been collected on the Bourbeuse River since 1941. Pflieger (1997) noted two locations on the Bourbeuse River where the pallid shiner was found. The last collection of this species was in 1957 within the Lower Meramec River subwatershed. It is likely this species is extirpated from Missouri.

Angler Survey

A survey conducted from 1981-82 on the lower 147 miles of the Bourbeuse River found that all types of fishing (pole and line, set line, and gigging) made up about 29% of all visits (Fleener 1988). Although the Meramec River watershed saw more total recreational use during its survey period, the Bourbeuse River survey segment had more angler use than the Meramec River watershed. In the survey segment of the Bourbeuse River, pole-and-line fishing was popular, making up 25% of all visits to the area (Fleener 1988).

When compared to the other stream systems in the area, angler catch rate of the Bourbeuse River in fish per hour was second to the Meramec River (Table Bc07). The angler catch rate for the lower 147 miles of the Bourbeuse River was 0.29 fish/hour compared 0.44 in the lower 117 miles of the Meramec River.

The only recent angler survey conducted for the Bourbeuse River watershed was a phone interview conducted by Weithman in 1991 (see Land Use Section, Recreation). No recent creel surveys have been conducted in the Bourbeuse River watershed.

No commercial harvest of fish or mussels is allowed in the Bourbeuse River watershed (Wildlife Code of Missouri 1999).


The Bourbeuse River was sampled using boom-mounted electrofishing equipment in 1994-1996 to assess the potential for special management of the smallmouth bass population beyond the 12-inch minimum length limit and six bass daily creel limit. River access points divide the river into nine reaches of varying lengths. In 1994, a portion of each reach was electrofished. Table Bc08 summarizes the 1994 population parameters for each of the black bass species. Electrofishing effort was concentrated on reaches between Noser Mill and Goodes Mill in 1995 (Table Bc09) and 1996 (Table Bc10). In 1994, spotted bass were the dominant species in the three samples collected below Goodes Mill (a physical barrier), however, spotted bass were found just below the Noser Mill Dam, the upstream-most sample site in 1995 and 1996. Smallmouth bass PSD ranged from 35.6 - 39.8% for all sample sites combined for the three years sampled. Similarly, RSD-14 ranged from 9.2 - 14.1%, RSD-15 from 5.3 - 8.0%, and RSD-18 from 0.6 - 1.5%. The reach from Reiker Ford Access to Goodes Mill consistently had high smallmouth bass PSD and RSD values.

The population parameters for the Bourbeuse River smallmouth bass compare favorably to some other streams (Table Bc11). For example, in 1997 the Big Piney River regulated zone had a PSD of 29.7%, RSD-14 of 8.8%, RSD-15 of 5.8%, and a RSD-18 of 0.2%. Also, the 1973 Courtois Creek PSD was 37%, RSD-14, 8%, and RSD-15, 4%. The fall 1991 Courtois Creek PSD was 39%, RSD-14, 8%, and RSD-15, 6%.

A total of 1,264 smallmouth bass scales were analyzed during the study (Table Bc11). Bourbeuse River smallmouth attain 12 inches by age five. Growth rates were variable at older ages with smallmouth reaching 15 inches by age seven or eight and 18 inches by age nine.

A tagging study was initiated in 1995 and repeated in 1996, to identify anglers and determine the harvest rate of smallmouth bass. A tagging study approach was used because multiple access points on private land made a probability creel unworkable and a roving creel was not practical for other reasons. One hundred legal (>12-inch) smallmouth bass were tagged in spring 1995, and 95 legal smallmouth bass were tagged in spring 1996. Fish were tagged in a 34-mile segment bounded by Door Ford and Goodes Mill (Figure Bc01). Almost one half of these tags were in the reach from Reicker’s Ford to Mayer’s Landing (4.9 tags/mile). Twenty-eight tags were returned in 1995, and 16 tags were returned in 1996. The Bourbeuse River was above normal water stage and muddy during the spring of 1996, which could account for the difference. Thirty-five different anglers returned tags. Seven anglers caught more than one tagged smallmouth bass, only one of these seven anglers harvested the smallmouth bass they caught. Overall, 7% of the bass tagged in 1995 were harvested, and 8% of the bass tagged in 1996 were harvested.

Fishing Regulations

The Bourbeuse River black bass populations are protected by a 12-inch minimum length limit. In addition, black bass must be released immediately after being caught from March 1 through the Friday before the fourth Saturday in May. All other species are managed by the standard statewide fishing regulations.

Figure Bc01: Bourbeuse River Smallmouth Bass Tag Returns

Bourbeuse River Smallmouth Bass Tag Returns

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Table Bc01: Fish Species Collected within the Bourbeuse River Watershed

Fish Species Collected within the Bourbeuse River Watershed

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Table Bc02: Numbers and Relative Abundance of Living Naiades Found in the Bourbeuse River Watershed

Numbers and relative abundance of living naiades found in the Bourbeuse River watershed

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Table Bc03: Living and Dead Mussel Species Collected within the Bourbeuse River Watershed

Living and Dead Mussel Species Collected within the Bourbeuse River Watershed

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Table Bc04: Composition of Crayfish Species within the Bourbeuse River Watershed

Composition of Crayfish Species within the Bourbeuse River Watershed

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Table Bc05: Crayfish Species Diversity and Richness in Bourbeuse River Watershed

Crayfish Species Diversity and Richness in Bourbeuse River Watershed

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Table Bc06: Benthic Macroinvertebrate Collections for the Bourbeuse River

Benthic Macroinvertebrate Collections for the Bourbeuse River

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Table Bc07: Angler Total Hours Fished and Average Catch Rates of the Bourbeuse River and other streams in the area

Angler Total Hours Fished and Average Catch Rates of the Bourbeuse River and other streams in the area

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Table Bc08: Bourbeuse River 1994 Smallmouth Bass Population Parameters (%)

Bourbeuse River 1994 Smallmouth Bass Population Parameters (%)

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Table Bc09: Bourbeuse River 1995 Smallmouth Bass Population Parameters (%)

Bourbeuse River 1995 Smallmouth Bass Population Parameters (%)

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Table Bc10: Bourbeuse River 1996 Smallmouth Bass Population Parameters (%)

Bourbeuse River 1996 Smallmouth Bass Population Parameters (%)

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Table Bc11: Comparison of Bourbeuse River Smallmouth Bass Parameters with Courtois Creek and Other Areas

Comparison of Bourbeuse River Smallmouth Bass Parameters with Courtois Creek and Selected Smallmouth Bass Management Areas.

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