Stream Fish Distribution and Abundance
Historical records of fish collections within the North Fork Watershed date back to 1 July, 1931. The latest fish community surveys were performed in 1997 (Figure Bc01)(MDC 1998a). From 1931 to 1997, 76 fish species (not including hybrids) in 15 families have been collected (including observations) within the watershed (Table Bc01) (MDC Ozark Regional Fish Collection Files; MDC Sport Fish Collection Files; Pflieger 1997; MDC 1998a; MDC 1999c).
Table Bc02 shows fish species distribution by 11 digit hydrologic unit.
Prior to 1980, a total of 65 fish species (not including hybrids) in 12 families were collected (including observations) within the watershed (MDC Ozark Regional Fish Collection Files; MDC Sport Fish Collection Files; Pflieger 1997; MDC 1998a; MDC 1999c).
From 1980 to 1997, a total of 71 species in 15 families have been collected (MDC Ozark Regional Fish Collection Files; MDC Sport Fish Collection Files; Pflieger 1997; MDC 1998a; MDC 1999c). Three species of fish which were observed prior to 1980 were not observed from 1980 to 1997. These include the Gilt Darter (Percina evides), steelcolor shiner (Cyprinella whipplei), and the least brook lamprey (Lamptera aepyptera). The gilt darter and the steelcolor shiner were only collected in 1942 from a single site (MDC 1998a). This site became part of Norfork Lake whose dam was completed in 1944 (MDNR 1994a). Pflieger (1997) states that the gilt darter "has apparently disappeared from the White River Basin following the construction of the North Fork, Table Rock, and Bull Shoals Reservoirs." Pflieger (1997) gives a similar description of the disappearance of the steelcolor shiner within the basin.
Of some concern is the absence of the least brook lamprey in collections after 1979.
The least brook lamprey has only been collected in 5 samples within the watershed; all of which occurred between 1969 and 1979 (MDC 1998a). Larval lamprey have been collected in samples after 1979. These perhaps may be representatives of the least brook lamprey. Additional sampling will be necessary in order to adequately determine the status of this species within the North Fork Watershed.
Four species of fish have been collected in fish community samples since 1980 which were not previously recorded in MDC fish community collections prior to 1980 within the watershed (MDC Ozark Regional Fish Collection Files; MDC Sport Fish Collection Files; Pflieger 1997; MDC 1998a; MDC 1999c). These include the longnose gar, redspotted sunfish, warmouth, and western mosquitofish. All species, with the exception of the longnose gar, have been collected at single sites. The redspotted sunfish and warmouth were both collected at the same site on Bryant Creek. The western mosquitofish was collected at a single site on Bennett's River. The longnose gar was collected at two relatively widely separated sites; one on Lick Creek and the other on the North Fork River. It is difficult to determine the exact cause of the sudden appearance of these species within the watershed. Possible explanations could include a change in sampling techniques, sampling effort, or undocumented introductions.
The longnose gar was collected at one site on Lick Creek which had not been previously sampled. Sampling methodology at the other site at which the longnose gar was collected was slightly different than for earlier samples (MDC 1998a).
The western mosquitofish was collected at a site which had not previously been sampled. In addition, this species has been collected from nearby streams within the neighboring Spring River Tributaries Watershed; Thus its new found presence in the North Fork Watershed should be of no surprise especially in light of how this species has spread so quickly throughout the state. A survey in the 1940s indicated that its distribution in Missouri included the "Lowland Faunal Region and northward along the Mississippi River to Ramsey Creek in Pike County" (Pflieger 1997). Today the mosquito fish can be found in all of the faunal regions of the state.
The appearance of the redspotted sunfish and the warmouth is more difficult to explain than the previously mentioned species. Sample methods between the sample in which these species were found and an earlier sample appear to be similar. Both the warmouth and the redspotted sunfish have been collected in the neighboring Bull Shoals Lake Watershed, Part of the White River Tributaries Watershed (Pflieger 1997). Neither are widespread in the southwestern portion of the Ozarks. The occurrence of these species within the North Fork Watershed are probably the result of undocumented introductions.
Percent of occurrence for individual species was determined by dividing the number of sample sites at which an individual species was collected by total number of sample sites within the North Fork Watershed for the entire period of record. Six species occurred at 75% or more of the sample sites: banded sculpin (Cottus carolinae), central stoneroller (Campostoma pullum), duskystripe shiner (Luxilis pilsbryi), hornyhead chub (Nocomis biguttatus), Ozark sculpin (Cottus hypselurus), and rainbow darter (Etheostoma caeruleum).
In addition to the previously mentioned species, 5 additional species of fish have been observed in sport fish samples within the North Fork Watershed. These include black crappie, white crappie, striped bass, white bass, and river redhorse. The occurrence of most of these species is probably due to the effect of the recreational fishery management and habitat of Norfork Lake on fish community species composition.
The fish fauna of the North Fork Watershed is dominated by Ozark species (Table Bc01). According to the faunal region classification of species as developed by Pflieger (1989), they could be described as 57% Ozark, 8% Ozark-Prairie, 8% Ozark-lowland, 3% Ozark-Big River, 1% Prairie, 3% Big River, Lowland 3% and 17% widely distributed.
The tributaries and lakes of the North Fork Watershed offer a wide variety of angling opportunities. A total of 16 species of sport fish (as defined as game fish in MDC 1999c) are known to occur within the watershed (Pflieger 1997; MDC 1998a; MDC sport fish sample files; Pratt, personal communication). These include grass pickerel, chain pickerel, rainbow trout, brown trout, Ozark bass, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, channel catfish, warmouth, walleye, spotted bass, flathead catfish, black crappie, white crappie, striped bass, and white bass. Walleye, spotted bass, flathead catfish, black crappie, white crappie, striped bass, and white bass have a distribution associated primarily with Norfork Lake as well as the lower North Fork River and lower Bryant Creek. White bass, striped bass, and walleye move up into the lower tributaries, primarily the North Fork River and Bryant Creek, during the spring as part of their spawning activity.
The North Fork River from Rainbow Spring to Dawt Mill has year round temperatures less than 70oF and is managed as a cold-water fishery. This section of the North Fork River is home to an important and nationally recognized trout fishery. Both rainbow and brown trout exist in this area. The North Fork of the White River in Ozark County is classified as a Wild Trout Management Area from the upper outlet of Rainbow Spring to Blair Bridge. The unimpounded portion of the North Fork River and its tributaries from Blair Bridge to Norfork Lake are managed as a Special Trout Management Area (MDC, 1999d). Special regulations apply in both areas (see current Missouri Wildlife Code Booklet).
In 1991 and 1992 an angler survey was carried out within the section of the North Fork River designated as a cold-water fishery (approximately 13.5 miles). Results indicated that angler visitation equaled an annual average 452 trips/mile per year and helped to generate more than half a million dollars for the local economy (Zurbrick 1997).
Several species of non-game fish also provide many alternative fishing opportunities. These species include northern hogsucker, black redhorse, golden redhorse, and shorthead redhorse. (MDC 1998a; MDC sport fish sample files)
Due to the existence of a significant cold water fishery within the North Fork Watershed, fish stocking efforts have been primarily focused on trout. The first recorded introduction of rainbow trout within the watershed was in 1925 (Zurbrick 1997). Stocking of rainbow trout was discontinued by Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) in 1966 and the population became self-sustaining through natural reproduction. In 1967, MDC began stocking brown trout in the North Fork River. Since then 378,229 brown trout have been stocked in the North Fork (MDC 1974-1979,1986 and MDC 1985-1996). Rainbow trout are stocked by two private entities within the watershed. Spring Creek, a tributary of the North Fork River is stocked on a semi-weekly basis from Memorial Day to Labor Day (Pratt personal communication). The other private trout area is located on Spring Creek (tributary of Bryant Creek).
Less information is known regarding the stocking of warm water species within the North Fork watershed. Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) annual stocking reports for the Ozark Region indicate that Noblett Lake, the only major impoundment, besides Norfork Reservoir, within the watershed, receives annual supplemental stockings of channel catfish. Norfork reservoir receives the bulk of warmwater fish stockings in the watershed. The Missouri Department of Conservation routinely stocks walleye in the reservoir in Missouri (Legler, personal communication). In addition, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has stocked redear, black crappie, white crappie, channel catfish, blue catfish, flathead catfish, striped bass, and hybrids (white bass X striped bass) within the reservoir in Arkansas (Legler, personal communication). Many farm ponds have also been stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, and channel catfish by both MDC and privately obtained fish. It can be assumed that many pond owners have also probably stocked grass carp. The potential of these fish being washed into streams exists in all 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 non-native species can often times have disastrous consequences.
A total of 21 species of mussels are known to occur within the North Fork Watershed (Table Bc03)(Oesch 1995, Buchanan 1996, MDC 1998b, Turgeon et al. 1998). Of these, 3 species are former Federal category-2 candidates. These are the elktoe (Alsmidonta marginata), Ouachita kidneyshell (Ptychobranchus occidentalis), and purple lilliput (Toxolasma lividus). Figure Bc02 displays Mussel sampling sites within the watershed.
Fifteen species of snails have been identified within the North Fork Watershed (Table Bc04) (Wu etal. 1997). These include two species of conservation concern: the Arkansas mudalia (Leptoxis arkansensis) and the Ozark pyrg (Pyrgulopsis ozarkensis) (MDC 1999e).
Five species of crayfish are known to occur within the North Fork Watershed. These include the longpincered crayfish (Orconectes longidigitus), northern crayfish (Orconectes virilis), Ozark crayfish (Orconectes ozarkae), ringed crayfish (Orconectes n. chaenodactylus), and spothanded crayfish (Orconectes punctimanus) ( Pflieger 1996 and MDC 1998c). Three species have distributions in or closely associated with the Ozark Region (Pflieger 1996). The longpincered crayfish is found only in the White River Basin in Missouri and Arkansas. The Ozark crayfish is found only in the White and Black River Basins in Missouri and Arkansas. It is uncommon in the North Fork Watershed. The spothanded crayfish is found in the eastern half of the Ozarks in Missouri and adjacent counties in Arkansas. This species is also found in Callaway, Montgomery, and Warren Counties north of the Missouri River.
A limited amount of information is currently available for the North Fork Watershed in regards to benthic invertebrates. Duchrow (1977) carried out benthic invertebrate sampling at eight locations on Bryant Creek, Hunter Creek, Watered Hollow, and Crystal Spring Branch within the North Fork Watershed from 1974-1976 (Table Bc05 and Figure Wq04) (MDC 1998d). A total of 24,418 organisms of 106 taxa were collected. Densities ranged from 653 organisms/ft2 - 2538 organisms/ft2. All of these invertebrate sample sites were located in the Bryant Creek Subwatershed. Little is known in regards to the aquatic invertebrate community of the remainder of the North Fork Watershed. In order to gain further understanding of species composition and distribution throughout the watershed, additional sampling will be necessary.
Species of Conservation Concern
Within the North Fork Watershed, 65 species of conservation concern have been identified (Table Bc06) (MDC 1999b and MDC 1999e). These include 41 species of plants; 2 species of insects; 6 species of mollusk; 3 species of fish; 1 species of amphibian, 2 species of reptiles, 5 species of birds; and 5 species of mammals. Three species have federal endangered and state endangered species status. These include the gray bat, Indiana bat, and running buffalo clover. An additional 4 species have state endangered species status. These are the mountain lion, black-tailed jackrabbit, Bachman's sparrow, and Swainson's warbler. The bald eagle is listed as a federal threatened species and a state endangered species. It is currently proposed for federal delisting (USFWS 2001).
The following is a brief description of aquatic oriented species of conservation concern within the North Fork Watershed:
Lake chubsucker - Only one record of this species exists within the Natural Heritage Database for the North Fork Watershed (MDC 1999b). The year of the observation is 1942. Historical data from the Missouri Department of Conservation Fish Collection Database indicate no collections of this species within the watershed. Pflieger (1997) describes this species as being primarily restricted to the Lowland Faunal Region with rare occurrences in the eastern Ozarks. For this reason, as well as a lack of historical observations within the watershed, the absence of this species from the North Fork Watershed should not be a concern.
Ozark Shiner -The first record of the occurrence of the Ozark shiner within the North Fork Watershed is from 1931 (MDC 1998a). Since this time the Ozark shiner has been collected at 8 sites in 11 collections with the latest collections in 1996. The Ozark shiner has only been found within the Ozark uplands in Missouri and Arkansas (Pflieger 1997). Periodic monitoring will be needed in order to track the status of this species within the watershed over time.
Checkered Madtom -The checkered madtom has been collected at 4 sites in 8 collections within the North Fork Watershed from 1940 to 1994 (MDC 1998a). Two of these sample sites no longer exist, having been inundated by the waters of Norfork Lake in the 1940s. Pflieger (1997) states that although the checkered madtom may have been eliminated from a portion of its former range by reservoir construction in the White River Basin it is still found in Norfork Lake. Pflieger also states, however, that this species appears to continue to decline. The checkered madtom is known only to occur in streams of the southern Ozarks from the upper White River to the Current River (Pflieger 1997). Periodic monitoring will be needed in order to track the status of this species within the watershed over time.
Ozark Hellbender -The Ozark Hellbender is restricted to the North Fork Watershed and to rivers and streams of the Black River System (Johnson 1992).
Alligator Snapping Turtle - The Natural Heritage Database currently lists one record (1992) for the alligator snapping turtle within the North Fork Watershed (1999b). Johnson (1992) states that the alligator snapping turtle is "presumed to occur in the large rivers, sloughs, and oxbow lakes of southern, southeastern and eastern Missouri."
Elktoe (mussel) - The elktoe has only been found at a single site within the North Fork Watershed (Oesch 1984, Buchanan 1996, and MDC 1998b). Oesch 1984 states that the elktoe is usually not abundant where it is found. Host fishes for the elktoe include white sucker, northern hogsucker, shorthead redhorse, rock bass, and warmouth (Oesch 1984).
Arkansas Broken-ray (mussel) - The Arkansas broken-ray was found at 16 sites within the North Fork Watershed in 1982 (MDC 1998b).
Arkansas Mudalia (snail) - The Arkansas mudalia has been found at three sites within the North Fork Watershed. In Missouri, this species is only known to occur within the North Fork Watershed.
Ouachita Kidneyshell (mussel) - The Ouachita kidneyshell has been collected from 11 sites within the North Fork Watershed. The last collection occurred in 1985 (MDC 1998b). While the Ouachita kidneyshell is fairly widespread south of the Missouri River, it is seldom abundant locally (Oesch 1984).
Ozark Pyrg (snail) - The Ozark Pyrg has been collected from a single site within the North Fork Watershed. As is the case with the Arkansas mudalia, in Missouri, the Ozark pyrg is found only within the North Fork Watershed.
Purple Lilliput (mussel) - The Purple Lilliput was collected from 2 sites within the North Fork Watershed in 1982 (MDC 1998b).