Biotic Communities

Fish Community

Twenty-six fish sampling stations are present among nine streams in the basin (Figure Bc01). Fish collections were made at four sites in 1940, ten sites in 1961-66, 10 sites in 1977-79, and 21 sites in 1995-98 using drag and kick seines, or backpack electrofishing equipment.

A total of 71 fish species was collected basinwide since 1940. Sixty-six species were represented in the three largest streams, the Moreau, North and South Moreau creeks, and 44 species were represented in the six smaller streams (Burris Fork, Straight Fork, Brush Creek, Clark Fork, Willow Fork, and unnamed tributary) in the basin (Table Bc01 and Table Bc02). Most streams had appropriately diverse fish fauna, however, some changes in fish species abundance and distribution have occurred in recent years and are discussed below.

The fish fauna of the Moreau basin reflects a blending of Ozark-Missouri and Prairie-Lower Missouri aquatic fauna. In the two most recent collection periods, 1977-79 and 1995-98, across all sizes of streams, approximately 56% of the fauna was Ozark in character, 21% were species of broad adaptability and wide range, 15% were typical prairie species and 5% were lowland species (Figure Bc02). Big river fauna (4%) was concentrated in the Moreau River.

Three species (Missouri saddled darter, emerald shiner, and gravel chub) were only found in large river habitats. The Missouri saddled darter was present in the Moreau River, lower South Moreau (River Mile (RM) 5) and lower North Moreau (below RM 16) creeks. The emerald shiner, a species preferring open channels of large rivers with moderate to low gradient, only occurred in the Moreau River. The gravel chub inhabited the lower North Moreau Creek (above RM 16) and middle to upper Moreau River (above RM 18).

The common carp, the only exotic species collected from the basin, was last collected in 1977 in the Moreau River at RM 3. Despite few capture records, carp from the Missouri River probably frequent the lower reaches of the Moreau on a regular basis.

Spotted bass and western mosquitofish have become more widespread in the Moreau, South and North Moreau creeks, and Burris Fork drainages in the last 40 years. Neither species were collected in these rivers in 1940. However, the proportions of sites where spotted bass were collected has increased from 10% to 64% from the 60's to the 90's and the sites having mosquitofish increased from 0 to 36% during this same time period (Table Bc03). Our findings are consistent with Pflieger's (1997) observation that the range of the mosquitofish has been naturally expanding over the last 50 years. The expansion of spotted bass into the Moreau system is believed to be associated with an undocumented stocking into the Osage drainage sometime prior to the 1940's.

At the same time that the range of the spotted bass has been expanding, the range of smallmouth bass has been shrinking in this watershed. In the 1990's, smallmouth bass were collected at one site on Burris Fork and at one site on the upper Moreau River. At seven other sites (on Straight Fork, North Moreau Creek, South Moreau Creek) where they had previously been collected, no fish were taken during recent sampling. Pflieger (1997) partly attributes this decline in abundance from hybridization with spotted bass, increased siltation, and poorer base water flows.

Two species, southern redbelly dace and Ozark sculpin, were collected at the fringe or outside of their normal distribution. One southern redbelly dace was collected in 1996 in the small fourth order Clark Fork, a tributary to South Moreau Creek. This locality is along the northern fringe of its normal range. The dace typically inhabits permanently flowing small creeks and spring branches with clear, cool water and sand or gravel substrates. In 1995, one Ozark sculpin was taken at RM 8 on Straight Fork. This sculpin was taken farther north than its typical distribution in the central and southern Ozarks, however, isolated populations do occur in the Osage and Gasconade drainages. In the Ozarks, it is abundant in spring-fed streams. These species suggest the possibility of finding some areas of unique habitat on Straight Fork and Clark Fork.

There were seven species only taken in 1940-1966 surveys. They included the chestnut lamprey, Topeka shiner, white bass, walleye, plains topminnow, common shiner, and blacknose shiner. Four of these seven species (Topeka shiner, walleye, common shiner, blacknose shiner) are considered intolerant of habitat perturbations and are often the first species to decline following changes to their environment. Populations of chestnut lamprey, white bass and walleye are secure in Missouri. Our inability to recapture these species could have been due to sampling method rather than changes in abundance because these are large fish and they are not as susceptible to seining as the smaller-sized species. The plains topminnow, blacknose shiner, and Topeka shiner are imperiled statewide. The abundance of common shiners, although not dangerously low in numbers statewide, has been declining in some central Missouri streams (Pflieger 1997). They were last collected in upper North Moreau Creek (RM 45) and Straight Fork in 1966.

The plains topminnow, common shiner, Topeka shiner, and blacknose shiner were all collected in 1940. Their combined presence suggests that at one time Straight Fork had very high quality habitat and this habitat has subsequently degraded significantly.

The final species that might be declining in this drainage is the blackside darter. These darters generally occur in medium to large-size rivers at low population densities. They are found in pockets in the Prairie and Lowland regions of the state. In 1964 and 1979, one blackside darter was taken on the lower North Moreau Creek and on the lower South Moreau Creek. In collections made in the 1990's, no blackside darters were collected. Because abundance was very low in the past, it is difficult to determine if this change is significant or due to inadequate sampling for a rare species.

Since 1940, 22 intolerant species, those considered highly sensitive to perturbations, have been identified in basin streams (Tables Bc01 and Bc02). Four of these species were only observed before 1970. The remaining 18 intolerant species were widely distributed among streams. The great variety of fish species found in this basin as well as the abundance of intolerant species suggests that overall, the fish communities are in good condition. Streams worthy of further evaluation due to species present historically (Topeka shiner, common shiner, blacknose shiner, plains topminnow) or currently unique species (Ozark sculpin, southern redbelly dace) include Straight and Clark forks. Though it has not been sampled to date, Smith Creek would also be a good candidate for sampling efforts due to its size and close proximity to Straight Fork.

Species of Concern

"Species of concern" are species of special interest because their population is declining, they are extremely rare, or they are particularly vulnerable to extinction. Four fish species, the plains topminnow, blacknose shiner, ghost shiner and Topeka shiner, on this list, once occurred in the basin but were not been observed in the 1990's (Figure Bc03). The plains topminnow, blacknose shiner, and federally endangered Topeka shiner, were last collected in Straight Fork in 1940. It is doubtful that populations of these species remain in the basin. Low numbers of ghost shiners were observed in North Moreau Creek in 1940 and in the Moreau River in 1962 and 1979. However, when these same localities were resampled in 1995 or 1998, no ghost shiners were collected. This species is imperiled in the state because of rarity but is secure globally. It prefers low-gradient reaches of large, moderately clear creeks with permanent flow.

Non-fish species of concern that have occurred in the basin are as follows: the Northern crawfish frog (Rana Areolata circulosa), a Meropid scorpionfly (Merope tuber), three Great blue heron rookeries (Ardea herodias), Henslow's sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii), Upland sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda), Northern harrier (Circus cyaneus), Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperii), Greater prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus cupido), Running buffalo clover (Trifolium stoloniferum), False mermaid (Floerkea proserpinacoides), Amethyst shooting star (Dodecatheon amethystinum), Wolf's spike rush (Eoleocharis wolfii), and Columbia water-meal (Wolffia columbiana) (Figure sc). Four of the species listed above (Henslow's sparrow, Northern harrier, Wolf's spike rush and Northern crawfish frog) were observed on prairie habitat at Hite Prairie CA near Versailles. The Greater prairie-chicken , Northern harrier, and Running buffalo clover are endangered in the state.

Concentrations of prairie-chickens were last found northeast of Versailles and in the vicinity of Tipton to the north in 1993 (Figure sc). In 1996, a few prairie-chickens were sighted in the vicinity of Tipton and Clarksburg along the divide between the Moniteau and Moreau drainages but none have been sighted on booming grounds in the vicinity of Versailles. It is doubtful that any viable population of prairie-chickens remains in this watershed (Mechlin 2002, personal communication). The conversion of vast grasslands to pasture is believed to be contributing to its decline throughout Missouri.

One exotic plant, purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), is monitored in the database because it is a noxious exotic wetland plant that is displacing native plants (Missouri Natural Heritage database 2002; Figure sc).

Sport Fishing

Numerous sport fishing opportunities, especially wade fishing, abound in the Moreau basin. Largemouth bass, spotted bass, bluegill, and longear sunfish are found in all major streams. Channel catfish appear most abundant in the North Moreau, Moreau and South Moreau rivers. Angling for smallmouth bass is less predictable. Their abundance and distribution has declined since the appearance of spotted bass in the 1950's. Smallmouth bass occurred in recent fish collections made in the Moreau River, South Moreau Creek and Burris Fork but not in North Moreau Creek. Hybridization with spotted bass, increased siltation, and lowered base flows (i.e. more intermittent conditions) are believed to have contributed to its decline along the Ozark border and northeastern prairies (Pflieger 1997).

Over the years a few white bass, white crappie, walleye, flathead catfish, and sauger have been taken in fish collections in the Moreau, South Moreau or North Moreau rivers. Local anglers catch these fish seasonally.

Gigging, a popular Ozark sport, is possible in the larger rivers but is challenging due to frequent low water conditions which make boating difficult and poor water clarity. Golden and shorthead redhorse, favorite targets of giggers in the late fall and early winter, are abundant in the larger streams.

Public fishing accesses are available at the Moreau 50 access near the Hwy 50-63 Bridge in Cole County, at the mouth of Honey Creek, at Stringtown Bridge two miles east of Lohman, and at Scrivner Road Conservation Area three miles southeast of Russellville (Figure Bc04).

Fishing Regulations

Statewide stream fishing regulations apply to all streams.



The golden, Orconectes luteus, and Northern, Orconectes virilis, crayfishes are widely distributed throughout the basin (Pflieger 1996). The golden crayfish prefers rocky and gravelly substrates and permanent water. The Northern crayfish is most at home in fertile, warm, moderately turbid water without strong base flows. They prefer to hide among slab rock, logs, and organic debris. The papershell crayfish, Orconectes immunis, is found extensively in the Prairie faunal region and in the floodplain of the Missouri River (Pflieger 1996). Because the Moreau River is a major tributary of the Missouri, it is likely that some papershell crayfish also inhabit the lower reaches of the Moreau. The grassland crayfish, Procambarus gracilis, a crayfish that burrows up to 6 feet underground and lives long distances from permanent water, is found in eastern Moniteau County (Pflieger 1996). As its name implies, this crayfish inhabits grassland or prairie areas, a habitat type found in eastern Moniteau County.


The Moreau River has a diverse fauna of aquatic mussels. Twenty-five species of naiades have been collected from this watershed since 1965 (Table Bc04; Figure Bc05). None are threatened or endangered, however, one species, the black sandshell (Ligumia recta), collected by Oesch (1984) is locally imperiled. Although the commercial harvest of mussels is not permitted in the Moreau River, it does contain a number of mussels of commercial value for the pearl, button and polished chip industries.

Aquatic Insects

The aquatic insect fauna of the Moreau basin is not well known. MDC has no current collection data available for benthic aquatic insect samples in this watershed, however, some macroinvertebrate sampling will be collected from Burris Fork for the Missouri Resource Assessment Monitoring Project (Fischer 2002, personal communication). Informal collection information gathered by private citizens participating in the Missouri STREAM TEAM program is available for selected sites on Logan Creek, Honey Creek, South Moreau Creek, North Moreau Creek and Medlin Creek (Table Bc05 and Table Bc06). These specimens were broadly categorized into taxa intolerant, somewhat tolerant, and tolerant to pollution. This method provides a general impression of the water quality at these sites ranging from poor to good.

Figure Bc01: MDC fish sampling sites in the Moreau River basin

Map of fish sampling sites in the Moreau River basin, 1940-1998

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Table Bc01: Fish list of Moreau River, North Moreau Creek, and South Moreau Creek

Fish list of Moreau River, North Moreau Creek, and South Moreau Creek, 1940-1998

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Table Bc02: Fish list for smaller streams in Moreau Basin sampled

Fish list for smaller streams in Moreau Basin sampled

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Figure Bc02: Fish faunal groups in the Moreau River Watershed

Chart of fish faunal groups in the Moreau River Watershed, 1977-1998

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Table Bc03: Prevalence of spotted bass and western mosquitofish in the Moreau watershed

Prevalence of spotted bass and western mosquitofish in the Moreau watershed, 1940-1998

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Figure Bc03: Species of concern tracked in the Natural Heritage Database

Map of species of concern tracked in the Natural Heritage Database (2002)

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Figure Bc04: Public areas within the Moreau River watershed

Map of public areas within the Moreau River watershed. Click on the image to find more information

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Table Bc04: Mussel fauna of Moreau basin

Mussel fauna of Moreau basin (Oesch 1984, Missouri natural heritage database 1999, MDC 2002c)

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Figure Bc05: MDC mussel sampling sites in the Moreau River basin

Map of mussel sampling sites in the Moreau River basin, 1979-1996

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Table Bc05: Aquatic benthic samples for the Moreau watershed

Aquatic benthic samples for the Moreau watershed collected by STREAM TEAMS

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Table Bc06: Aquatic benthic samples for the Moreau watershed

Aquatic benthic samples for the Moreau watershed collected by STREAM TEAMS

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