Biotic community of the Current River watershed
Stream Fish Distribution and Abundance
Historical records of fish community collections within the Current River Watershed date back to 1 August, 1930 (MDC 1998a and MoRAP 2000a). Fish community collection sites are presented in Figure Bc01. From 1930 to 2000, 124 fish species (not including hybrids or larval lamprey) in 24 families have been collected within the watershed (Table Bc01) (MDC Ozark Regional Fish Community Collection and Sport Fish Sample Files; MNHP 2001a; Pflieger 1989; Pflieger 1997; MDC 1998a; MoRAP 2000a). Fish community sampling sites are presented in Figure Bc01.
Table Bc02 shows fish species distribution by modified 14 digit hydrologic unit. While this information provides insight into areas of the watershed where species have been collected in the past, it is important to note that the number of fish sampling sites as well as collections vary greatly between drainage units (no data is available for some units), thus negating the use of this data for any quantitative analysis.
Analysis of temporal distribution of species within the watershed was accomplished by dividing the examined period of record for fish community collections into three periods: Period 1 (1930-1957), Period 2 (1958-1979), and Period 3 (1980-2000). This analysis revealed that the number of species within the watershed between periods 1 and 2 remained similar with 111 and 117 species collected respectively. Period 3 saw a substantial decrease in the number of species collected within the watershed at 82. Of the species not observed in the latter time period, 1 is state endangered and 9 are considered species of conservation concern (MNHP 2001b). Possible reasons for the absence of species from collections of this time period vary. A difference in the number and spatial distribution pattern of sampling locations during period 3 may have a substantial role in the absence of some species in collections. During period 1, approximately 53 locations were sampled with multiple collections from different times of year in the same time period being combined from a small number of these locations. During period 2, 84 locations were sampled. During period 3, 61 locations were sampled. A difference in spatial distribution of sample locations could be another possible explanation. Four of the 11 locations at which the species in question were collected in period 1 were not sampled in period 3. In addition, based on quantitative data available in the MDC fish collection database (MDC 1998a), many of the species in question generally appear to have never been collected in large numbers. Twenty-three species had fewer than 10 specimens collected. An inconsistency between the time periods in the types of sample gear used is perhaps another explanation; however, this was not comprehensively analyzed because sample methodology data was not readily available for all samples.
The previously discussed factors make it difficult to determine actual species decline within the Current River Watershed. Future additional sampling efforts focusing on historic fish collection locations at which the species in question have been collected in the past will be important in determining the extent, if any, of the spatial and temporal shift in the fish community composition of the watershed.
The fish community of the Current River Watershed is composed of a diverse assemblage of fish species representing all four aquatic faunal regions of Missouri as defined by Pflieger (1989 and 1997). While species characteristic of the Ozark faunal region account for a dominating 42.1% of total species in the watershed, species characteristic of the River, Lowland, and Prairie faunal regions comprise 7.9%, 15.1%, and 2.4% respectively of total species in the watershed (Table Bc01, Table Bc03). The remaining species (32.5%) occurring within the watershed are either widely distributed in Missouri, or are characteristic of more than one faunal region (Table Bct03).One species, the common carp is a nuisance exotic species.
The Current River and its tributaries offer a variety of angling opportunities. A total of 9 species of gamefish (as defined as game fish in MDC 2001c) are known to occur within the watershed (MDC Ozark Regional Fish Collection Files; MoRAP 2000a; MDC 1998a Pflieger 1997). These include brown trout, chain pickerel, grass pickerel, largemouth bass, rainbow trout, shadow bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, and warmouth. Other game fish species including black crappie, channel catfish, flathead catfish, paddlefish, sauger, spotted bass, white bass, and white crappie, have been observed in the watershed in the past. However, these are not considered to be significant fisheries (the last collections in which these species occurred, with the exception of flathead catfish and paddlefish, were made prior to 1980).
The Current River supports a significant trout fishery in its upper reaches located in southern Dent and northern Shannon Counties. Montauk State Park, one of the Missouri"s four trout parks, is located in Dent County at the head of the Current River. Approximately 3 miles of trout stream exist within the park. An additional 16.7 miles of the Current River below the park is also managed for trout.Rainbow trout are the primary species within the park while both rainbows and browns can be found downstream of the park. (Please refer to current copy of the Missouri Wildlife Code)
Due to the existence of a significant cold water fishery within the Current River Watershed, fish stocking efforts have primarily focused on salmonid species. The first recorded introduction of salmonids within the watershed was in 1891 at which time rainbow and brown trout from the federal hatchery at Neosho were stocked in the Current River (Turner 1979). In the years following the initial stocking, salmonids continued to be stocked in the Current River. While rainbow and brown trout were the species stocked on the most consistent basis, introductions of brook trout and grayling also occurred. However, no records of these latter species exist within MDC fish community collections. This would appear to indicate the lack of success of this effort. In 1928, the coldwater resources at Montauk, Missouri were purchased by the Missouri Game and Fish Commission for use as a trout hatchery and fishing area (Turner 1979). The hatchery began operation four years later in 1932.
A new era in the trout fishery of the Current River began in 1937 under the management of the newly created Missouri Department of Conservation. The stocking of Salmonids in the Current River was limited to rainbow trout (Turner 1979). Stocking of brown trout resumed in 1966 (Turner 1974).
Currently, the MDC stocks both rainbow and brown trout in the upper Current River (MDC 2001d). Within the Montauk State Park Boundary, rainbow trout are stocked on a daily basis. Brown trout are stocked each spring in the section of the Current River from the state park to Cedargrove Bridge. From Cedargrove to Akers Ferry, rainbow trout are stocked every few weeks from February to mid-October.
Limited availability of historic stocking records for warm water species, the potential of "bait bucket" introductions and the availability of fish from commercial dealers, makes it difficult to address the entire scope of warm water stocking which has or may have occurred in the Current River Watershed. However, examination of various sources reveals some past stocking efforts within the watershed. The common carp, a species native to Asia, was widely stocked in Missouri by the Missouri Fish Commission between 1879 and 1895 at which time the program was discontinued (Pflieger 1997). Earliest observations of common carp from MDC fish community collection files are from 1947 (MDC 1998a). While common carp are a component of the commercial fishing industry in Missouri (Barnes and Riggert 2000), common carp can also be a nuisance species. They take space in rivers, streams, and lakes away from native species. They can increase stream and lake turbidity, destroy spawning habitat, while eating the eggs of native species of fish (Barnes and Riggert 2000). MDC annual reports (1937-1942 and 1946-1992) indicate that, historically, warm-water fish stocked or "rescued" (removing fish from intermittent pools of water and redistributing to areas deemed more suitable) by the MDC in the watershed included largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill, green sunfish, catfish, shadow bass, and "minnows". The practice of "fish rescue" has been discontinued.
Nearly 6 million walleye fry less than one inch in length were stocked in the Current River in 1967 and 1968 (Mayers 2000). Evaluations of this stocking effort determined that survival of the fry was poor (Mayers 2000). Arkansas has stocked 1-2 inch walleye fingerlings in Arkansas section of the Current River since 1986, however as of late 1999 the effect of these stockings had not been evaluated (Mayers 2000).
A 1986 United States Forest Service (USFS) report indicates that Loggers Lake, a USFS lake located in the northeast portion of the watershed, was restocked following refilling after being drained by vandals in 1976. The lake was initially stocked with adult fathead minnows in the spring of 1976. This was followed by largemouth bass, bluegill, and redear sunfish. Channel catfish were later stocked in the fall. In addition, Loggers Lake received stockings of grass carp in 1985 and 1989 (USFS 1986). Currently the MDC provides supplemental channel catfish stockings to Loggers Lake and Ripley Lake, both USFS lake within the watershed, on an annual basis (MDC 2001d). Loggers lake generally receives 375 catfish annually. Ripley Lake generally receives 300 channel catfish annually.
Undoubtedly, farm ponds within the watershed have been stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, and channel catfish by private individuals who obtained fish from the MDC, commercial dealers, and/or other water bodies. The availability of grass carp from commercial fish dealers also increases the probability of this species having been stocked in water bodies within the watershed. The potential of these fish being washed into streams exists during major precipitation events.
A lack of historical records, plus the occurrence of undocumented introductions makes it difficult to determine, with any reliability, all species which may have been introduced into the watershed. Effects of introductions vary. While the introduction of species already present in the watershed may have minimal to no effect, the introduction of exotic (non-native) species can, in many instances, have disastrous consequences.
A total of 43 species and subspecies of mussels are known to occur within the Current River Watershed (Table Bc04 and Figure Bc02) (MDC 1998b, MoRAP 2000b and MNHP 2001a). Of these, 2 species are both Federally as well as State listed as endangered. These species are the Curtis Pearlymussel (Epioblasma florentina) and the pink mucket (Lampsilis abrupta). The ebonyshell (Fusconaia ebena), elephantear (Elliptio crassidens), and snuffbox (Epioblasma florentina) are state listed as endangered. An additional 8 mussel species within the watershed are currently listed as species of conservation concern (Table Bc08). The Asian clam (Corbicula flumina) is an exotic (non-native) species of mussel which occurs in the watershed. This mollusk is a native of southern and eastern Asia . The Asian clam can alter lake and stream substrates, compete with native mussels for food and space, and cause biofouling problems in irrigation systems, power plants, and other industrial water systems (USGS 2002b).
An examination of mussel species distribution by eleven digit hydrologic units in the watershed reveals that the Little Black River Unit has the highest number of species at 39. The Lower Current Unit is a distant second in number of species at 18. However, a quantitative comparison between units is not sound. The intensity of mussel sampling within the Current River Watershed exhibits a large amount of spatial variation. The Little Black River Unit has been sampled the most intensively with approximately 66% of referenced sampling sites for the watershed occurring within its boundary. Two units, the Pike Creek and Spring Valley Units, lack mussel sampling data. Due to an inequity in sampling intensity between the eleven digit hydrologic units, quantitative comparisons of mussel diversity between these units would be inaccurate.
Twenty-five species of snails have been identified within the Current River Watershed (Table Bc05) (Wu etal. 1997). One species, the rough hornsnail (Pleurocera alveare) is included in the state list of species of conservation concern (MNHP 2001b). It is currently considered to be rare and uncommon to imperiled in the state.
Fourteen species of crayfish are known to occur within the Current River Watershed (Table Bc06 and Figure Bc03) (MDC 1998c and MoRAP 2000c). Most species have distributions in or closely associated with the Ozark and/or Lowland faunal Region (Pflieger 1996). Exceptions to this include the devil crayfish (Cambarus diogenes), northern crayfish (Orconectes virilis), and golden crayfish (Orconectes Luteus). The devil crayfish is nearly statewide in distribution being absent only from the White and Neosho River Drainages of the southwestern Ozarks (Pflieger 1996). The northern crayfish is the most widely distributed crayfish in Missouri. It occurs in all areas of the state with the exception of the southeastern Lowlands and portions of the central Ozarks (Pflieger 1996). The golden crayfish can be found primarily in portions of the Prairie and Ozark Faunal Region. In the Ozarks, it is absent from the Black, Eleven Point, White, and Neosho stream drainages (Pflieger 1996).
Within the Current River Watershed, the golden crayfish appears to be the most widespread. It occurs in all 7 eleven digit hydrologic units that have been sampled. The spothanded crayfish (Orconectes punctimanus) is the second most widespread in the watershed occurring in 6 out of 7 units sampled. Six species of crayfish have a distribution in the watershed limited to the Little Black River Hydrologic Unit. These include the cajun dwarf crayfish (Cambarellus puer), digger crayfish (Fallicambarus fodiens), shield crayfish (Faxonella clypeata), gray-speckled crayfish (Orconectes palmeri), red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii), and vernal crayfish (Procambarus viaeviridus).
Five species of crayfish found within the Current River Watershed are currently listed as species of conservation concern (MNHD 2001b). These include the cajun dwarf crayfish, Salem cave crayfish (Cambarus hubrichti), digger Crayfish (Fallicambarus fodiens), shield crayfish (Faxonella clypeata), and vernal crayfish (Procambarus viaeviridus). Within the watershed, all of these species, with the exception of the Salem cave crayfish (Cambarus hubrichti), have only been found in the Little Black River Hydrologic Unit.
Three hundred taxa of aquatic invertebrates have been collected within the Current River Watershed since 1961 (MDC 1998d) (Table Bc07). From 1961-1979, 194 taxa were collected within the watershed. Since and including 1980, 228 taxa of aquatic invertebrates have been collected. Figure Bc04 displays benthic invertebrate collection sites within the watershed. Five species are listed as Missouri species of conservation concern (MDNHP 2001b). These include Stenonema bednariki (a heptageniid mayfly), Allocapnia pymaea (a winter stonefly), Hydropsyche piatrix (a net-spinning caddisfly), Ophiogomphus westfalli (Westfall"s snaketail, a dragonfly), and Tachopteryx thoreyi (gray petaltail, a dragonfly) (Pennak 1978).
Species of Conservation Concern
Within the Current River Watershed, 169 species of conservation concern have been identified (Table Bc08) (MDC Ozark Regional Fish Community Collection and Sport Fish Sample Files; Pflieger 1997; Wu et al. 1997; MDC 1998a; MDC 1998b; MDC 1998c; MDC 1998d; MoRAP 2000a; MoRAP 2000b; MoRAP 2000c; MNHP 2001a; MNHP 2001b). These include 117 species of plants (flowering plants, ferns, fern allies, and mosses); 7 species of insects; 5 species of crayfish; 10 species of mussels; 1 snail species; 17 species of fish; 4 species of amphibians, 7 species of birds; and 6 species of mammals. Six species within the watershed are federally and state listed as endangered. These include the gray bat, Indiana bat, Curtis pearlymussel, pink mucket, pondberry, and running buffalo clover. The red-cockaded wood pecker is also federally listed as endangered; however it is currently considered extirpated from the state. These include the last observation of the species in the watershed was 1946. An additional 8 species are currently state listed as endangered. These include Swainson's warbler, harlequin darter, taillight shiner, plains spotted skunk, elephantear, snuffbox, ebonyshell, and the eastern prairie fringed orchid. It is important to note that the status of the above mentioned species are based on the 2001 Missouri Species of Conservation Concern Checklist (MNHP 2001b).
The following is a brief description of state and/or federally listed endangered aquatic oriented animal species within the Current River Watershed:
Harlequin Darter (Etheostoma histrio)
Within the Current River Watershed, The harlequin darter, being a characteristic lowland species, has only been found within the Little Black River drainage (MDC 1998a, MoRAP 2000a, and MNHP 2001a) the lower portions of which more closely resemble streams and ditches of the Lowland Faunal Region. The first MDC record for a collection of the harlequin darter within the Current River Watershed occurred in 1941 at which time one individual was found (MDC 1998a). Five other individuals collected in the watershed are recorded in the MDC fish collection database. These were collected from a single site in the late 1970s. The Missouri Natural Heritage database contains records for observations of the harlequin darter in the watershed as recently as 1998.
Taillight Shiner (Notropis maculatus)
Pflieger (1997) states that the taillight shiner is "one of the rarest Missouri minnows". Indeed, the taillight shiner has only been collected from 6 locations in Missouri (MDC 1998a, MoRAP 2000a, and MNHP 2001a). All of these are in or border the Lowland Faunal Region. This shiner has only been found at one location in the Current River Watershed (Little Black River Drainage). Pflieger (1997) states that the taillight shiner "seems on the verge of extirpation from the state".
Elephantear (Elliptio crassidens)
The elephantear is state listed as endangered (MNHP 2001b). It was found at two sites within the Current River Watershed in the early 1980s (MNHP 2001a). Both sites are within the Little Black River Drainage.
Curtis pearlymussel (Epioblasma florentina curtisii)
The Curtis pearlymussel is state and federally listed as endangered (MNHP 2001b). Within the Current River Watershed, the Curtis pearlymussel has only been found in the Little Black River Drainage. This species was last found in the watershed in 1993 (MNHP 2001a).
Snuffbox (Epioblasma triquetra)
The snuffbox is state listed as endangered (MNHP 2001b). The only record of this species within the watershed is from a single site in the Little Black River Drainage at which 2 live specimens were observed in 1984 (MNHP 2001a).
Ebonyshell (Fusconaia ebena)
The ebonyshell is state listed as endangered (MNHP 2001b). Within the watershed, this species appears to have only been found at a single site within the Little Black River Drainage (MDC 1998b, MoRAP 2000b, and MNHP 2001a). The one and only specimen of this species found within the watershed was observed in 1979 (MNHP 2001a). Bruenderman et al. (2001) states that mussel surveys conducted in 1997 and 1998 in the Little Black drainage showed no evidence that this species still exists within the drainage.
Pink Mucket (Lampsilis abrupta)
The pink mucket is state and federally listed as endangered (MNHP 2001b). Within the Current River Watershed, this species has been found at two sites located in the Little Black River Drainage (MDC 1998b, MoRAP 2000b, and MNHP 2001a). The last observation of this species within the watershed was in 1979 (MNHP 2001a).