A R K A N S A S Fish

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1 ARKANSAS Fish

2 Jeff Williams and Randy Zellers Editors Angela Browner Designer Contributing photographers Bruce Bauer Eric Engbretson Danté Fenolio Doug Hardesty Brian Jorg William Roston Paul Shafland Garold Sneegas Richard Standage Brian Wagner Craig Young Special thanks to the U.S. Geological Survey, Florida Integrated Science Center. On the cover The black crappie can be found among submerged treetops in lakes and quiet backwaters. Photo by Eric Engbretson. Spring 2006

3 Arkansas Fish FISH LOCATOR Lamprey Family Southern Brook Lamprey...10 Sturgeon Family Shovelnose Sturgeon...11 Paddlefish Family Paddlefish Gar Family Alligator Gar Bowfin Family Bowfin Freshwater Eel Family American Eel Herring Family Gizzard Shad Mooneye Family Mooneye...17 Trout Family Rainbow Trout Brook Trout Pike Family Chain Pickerel Minnow and Carp Family Central Stoneroller Grass Carp Common Carp...23 CONTENTS

4 CONTENTS Silver Carp...24 Redspot Chub Cardinal Shiner Southern Redbelly Dace Sucker Family Blue Sucker Black Buffalo Golden Redhorse...30 Bullhead Catfish Family Yellow Bullhead Checkered Madtom Flathead Catfish...33 Cavefish Family Ozark Cavefish...34 Pirate Perch Family Pirate Perch Killifish Family Northern Studfish Live-bearer Family Western Mosquitofish Silverside Family Brook Silverside...38 Temperate Bass Family White Bass Sunfish Family Ozark Bass...40 Bluegill Longear Sunfish... 42

5 Smallmouth Bass...43 Largemouth Bass...44 Black Crappie Pygmy Sunfish Family Banded Pygmy Sunfish Perch Family Stippled Darter Orangethroat Darter...48 Logperch Walleye...50 Drum Family Freshwater Drum Sculpin Family Banded Sculpin CONTENTS

6 6 ERIC ENGBRETSON

7 Arkansas Fish SPECIES FOUND IN THE NATURAL STATE Arkansas is rich in fish. Just five states are home to more species of fish than is The Natural State, which harbors 20 percent of the species found in North America. At least 215 species live here, many more than can be described in a pocket guide. Some fish on these pages are very familiar bass, crappie, catfish although most people won t encounter some of the other families described. Arkansas also has a wealth of water. The main reason for the diversity of fish species here is distinct eco-regions (see map), which have a wide variety of habitats bayous of the Delta with cypress and tupelo gum trees, big rivers, oxbow lakes, clear highland streams and springs, and huge, deep and cool reservoirs. Different species have filled highly variable niches in these bodies of water. Of the 215 species, 197 are native and the others were introduced for food, bait, sport fishing or vegetation control. Ozarks River Valley Ouachitas Coastal Plain Crowley s Ridge Delta INTRODUCTION 7

8 INTRODUCTION 8 Although this guide s goal is to familiarize readers with fishes of Arkansas, there s another message. The survival of wildlife including fish is up to us. As population, agriculture and industry grow, we put ERIC ENGBRETSON more demands on our aquatic resources. We can destroy in the blink of an eye what nature created in thousands of years. We must be thoughtful and unselfish in our stewardship of all our natural resources. How to Use This Handbook At least one example of most families of Arkansas fishes is included in this guide. They are listed in phylogenetic order, which means they are arranged from most primitive to most physiologically complex. This is the order usually used in scientific fish identification keys. Much of the information here comes from Fishes of Arkansas by Henry W. Robison and Thomas M. Buchanan, available from The University of Arkansas Press. ERIC ENGBRETSON

9 Suggested Reading Fishes of Arkansas, Henry W. Robison and Thomas M. Buchanan. The University of Arkansas Press. Fishes of Oklahoma, Rudolph Miller and Henry Robison. Universtity of Oklahoma Press. Inland Fishes of Mississippi, Stephen Ross. University Press of Mississippi. The Fishes of Missouri, William L. Pflieger. Missouri Department of Conservation. The Fishes of Tennessee, David Ethnier and Wayne Starnes. University of Tennessee Press. INTRODUCTION Suggested Web Sites Arkansas Game and Fish Commission North American Native Fishes Association NatureServe Southeastern Fishes Council 9

10 DABBLING LAMPREY FAMILY DUCKS Southern Brook Lamprey Ichthyomyzon castaneus BRUCE BAUER Range Found throughout upland streams of the White River and in the upper tributaries of the Arkansas, Little and Ouachita rivers. Several have been found in lowland streams in southwest Arkansas. Habitat and Habits Juveniles (ammocoetes) are filter feeders that eat plankton and decaying organic matter. Juveniles generally are found in calm, quiet areas near stream edges. Adults live in clear, flowing waters and build nests for spawning. Fish Fact Juveniles stop feeding when sexual maturity is reached. Adults die a few days after spawning. As a Group Lampreys belong to the Petromyzontidae family. Many lampreys are parasitic but only one of the four species in Arkansas is parasitic (chestnut lamprey). 10

11 DABBLING STURGEON DUCKS FAMILY Shovelnose Sturgeon Scaphirhynchus platorynchus GAROLD SNEEGAS Range Primarily in large rivers such as the Arkansas, Mississippi, Red and lower White. Habitat and Habits Prefers shallow areas near deep river channels. Also found on sand and gravel bars in areas with strong current. Feeds on small aquatic insects, mollusks, crustaceans and worms on river bottoms. Fish Fact Sturgeon roe (eggs) produce caviar sold in the U.S. Sturgeons are covered with rows of bony plates called scutes. As a Group Sturgeons belong to the family Acipenseridae. Three of seven sturgeons of North America occur in Arkansas: shovelnose, lake and the endangered pallid sturgeon. 11

12 PADDLEFISH FAMILY 12 Paddlefish Polyodon spathula GAROLD SNEEGAS Range Frequents large rivers within the Mississippi River Basin White, Arkansas, Ouachita and Red plus major tributaries in Arkansas. Habitat and Habits Lives in areas slightly out of the current, next to main river channels. Prefers tributary mouths. Often uses backwater habitat during summer. Feeds on zooplankton (microscopic crustaceans) filtered through fine gill rakers. Fish Fact Often called spoonbill catfish because of a large paddle-like appendage (rostrum) extending past its eyes. The rostrum contains pits, which may sense electrical fields created by their microscopic prey. As a Group Paddlefish belong to the Polyodontidae family. The only other living member of this family is the Chinese sturgeon of the Yangtze River in eastern Asia.

13 GAR FAMILY Alligator Gar Atractosteus spatula GAROLD SNEEGAS Range Lives primarily in the Mississippi, Arkansas and Red rivers. Sometimes found in the lower St. Francis, White and Ouachita rivers. Habitat and Habits Likes sluggish pools and backwater areas of big rivers. Feeds on fish and spawns in spring. Little is known about its life history. Fish Fact Alligator gar were once an important sport and commercial fish in Arkansas, although the population has declined drastically in the last 50 years. Known as a vicious fighter. The state rod-and-reel record as of 2006 was 215 pounds. As a Group Gars belong to the family Lepisosteidae. Four species are found in Arkansas alligator, longnose, spotted and shortnose gar and five species live in the U.S. 13

14 BOWFIN FAMILY Bowfin Amia calva WILLIAM ROSTON Range Found throughout the Arkansas River Valley and in all the major drainages of the Coastal Plain lowlands. Habitat and Habits Widespread in rivers, oxbow lakes, bayous and swamps in lowlands of Arkansas. Feeds on fish at night. Fish Fact Often caught by anglers and known as grinnell. A bowfin s air bladder can be used like a lung, allowing the fish to breathe air. As a Group The bowfin belongs to the family Amiidae. It s the sole species of an ancient bony fish family. 14

15 FRESHWATER EEL FAMILY American Eel Anguilla rostrata GAROLD SNEEGAS Range Throughout the state, primarily in large rivers. Habitat and Habits Frequents deep pools of large rivers and streams around logs, boulders and other cover. Sometimes found in smaller streams. Feeds primarily at night, scavenging river bottoms for dead fish, crustaceans and other organisms. Fish Fact Adults die after spawning near Bermuda in the Atlantic Ocean. Offspring find their way to freshwater streams after a journey that takes more than a year. The American eel population has declined because dams block migration. As a Group Freshwater eels belong to the family Anguillidae. Fifteen species exist worldwide; only American eels live in North America. 15

16 HERRING FAMILY Gizzard Shad Dorosoma cepedianum GAROLD SNEEGAS Range All rivers, most abundant in large rivers and impoundments. Habitat and Habits Lives in a variety of habitats, usually in large schools in open water. Prefers deep, calm water but found in strong currents as well. Fish Fact Gizzard shad often overpopulate manmade reservoirs. As a Group Shad belong to the Clupeidae family, which includes about 200 species worldwide. Four family members live in Arkansas: the rare Alabama shad, skipjack herring, gizzard shad and threadfin shad. 16

17 MOONEYE FAMILY Mooneye Hiodon tergisus GAROLD SNEEGAS Range Large rivers: Arkansas, White, Black, Little Red, Strawberry, Spring, Current and Ouachita. Rarely found in the Mississippi River. Habitat and Habits Inhabits clear water, less tolerant of turbid waters. Commonly found in current above firm river bottoms. Feeds on aquatic insects, crayfish, mollusks and fish. Fish Fact Mooneyes are known as toothed herrings because of their superficial resemblance to herrings and teeth on their jaws, roof of the mouth and tongue. As a Group Mooneyes belong to the family Hiodontidae, which has one genus and two species (the other is goldeye) that occur in Arkansas. 17

18 TROUT FAMILY 18 Rainbow Trout Onchorynchys mykiss ERIC ENGBRETSON Range Introduced in the cold tailwaters below dams in the Ozark and Ouachita mountains and into some large springs such as Mammoth Spring in northern Arkansas. Habitat and Habits Although natural reproduction occurs, most rainbow trout in Arkansas have been raised in hatcheries and stocked. Rainbows feed on crustaceans, aquatic insects and fish. Spawning, though rarely successful, occurs in fall and early winter. Fish Fact Large-scale stocking of rainbow trout began in the late 1940s when the construction of large, deep reservoirs in the Ozarks and their coldwater discharges wiped out native fish populations. As a Group Brown, rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout fishing has become immensely valuable to the state s economy and provides many recreational benefits.

19 TROUT FAMILY Brook Trout Salvelinus fontinalis Range Introduced in the cold tailwaters of dams in the Ozarks and some large springs. Habitat and Habits This colorful, small trout prefers cover, such as boulders and logs, protected from current and predators. It eats insects and crustaceans, often during daylight. Spawning, though rarely successful, occurs in late fall and early winter. Brook trout are less tolerant of warm water than are rainbows. Fish Fact Like other trout species, breeding males develop a kipe (hooked lower jaw) during spawning to build and defend their redds (nests). As a Group Trout are not native to Arkansas. WILLIAM ROSTON 19

20 PIKE FAMILY Chain Pickerel Esox niger GAROLD SNEEGAS Range Streams and lakes in the coastal lowlands, Delta, Arkansas River Valley and the foothills of the Ouachitas and Ozarks. Habitat and Habits The chain pickerel spawns from late February to early March by laying sticky eggs on aquatic plants. The parents do not guard the eggs. This species is not very abundant in Arkansas but can be found in clear water near vegetation. It eats fish, especially sunfish. Fish Fact A tiger muskie grew larger than 22 pounds in six years in the Spring River. As a Group Only one other pike, the grass pickerel, is native to Arkansas. Muskellunge and northern pike (and tiger muskies, a hybrid of the two) have been introduced. 20

21 MINNOW AND CARP FAMILY Central Stoneroller Campostoma anomalum GAROLD SNEEGAS Range Almost statewide; not found in the lowlands of southern and eastern Arkansas. Habitat and Habits Lives among riffles and runs in small and medium, rocky streams. Lives mostly on algae growing on the stream bottom. Fish Fact The stoneroller gets its name from its habit of pushing rocks around on the stream bottom while it scrapes off algae with a ridge of cartilage on its lower jaw. As a Group Arkansas is home to two stonerollers central and largescale which often are found together in northern Arkansas. 21

22 MINNOW AND CARP FAMILY PAUL SHAFLAND, FLORIDA FISH AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION COMMISSION Grass Carp Ctenopharyngodon idella Range Statewide in all major river basins, plus ponds and lakes where they ve been stocked. Habitat and Habits Typically found in large rivers, but also can be found in ponds and reservoirs. Feeds on aquatic plants and sometimes eats animal matter. Females can lay hundreds of thousands of eggs that float until they hatch, usually within 36 hours, depending on water temperature. Fish Fact Grass carp are used to control unwanted vegetation in lakes and ponds. As a Group Asian carp belong to the family Cyprinidae, along with minnows and common carp. Grass carp, silver carp and bighead carp are the three major species in Arkansas. 22

23 MINNOW AND CARP FAMILY Common Carp Cyprinus carpio WILLIAM ROSTON Range This introduced species is found almost statewide. Habitat and Habits Among most adaptable species of fish, the common carp is abundant in mud-bottom streams and lakes. It is tolerant of pollution and can exist where few other species can. Spawns in late spring and early summer. Carp eat almost any kind of organic matter, plants, insects and crustaceans. They destroy habitat for other fishes by rooting the bottom when they feed. Fish Fact Common carp, native to Asia, were introduced in Europe, then the U.S., as a food fish. As a Group The minnow family, which has the largest number of species here and in the world, contains the other Asian carps (also introduced in Arkansas) and goldfish (sometimes found in the wild). 23

24 MINNOW AND CARP FAMILY Silver Carp Hypophthalmichthys molitrix CRAIG YOUNG ( INSET: DOUG HARDESTY) Range This introduced species has been documented in the Arkansas, Mississippi and White rivers. Probably escaped from various fish farms or was introduced as unused baitfish. Habitat and Habits Native to eastern Asia and found in the lowland rivers of China. A filter feeder with spongelike gill rakers that eats phytoplankton. Fish Fact Silver carp are known to leap from water when disturbed by noises and vibrations from boat motors. Boaters have been injured by these jumping fish. As a Group Asian carp are in the family Cyprinidae, along with minnows and common carp. Grass carp, silver carp and bighead carp are the major species in Arkansas. 24

25 MINNOW AND CARP FAMILY Redspot Chub Nocomis asper GAROLD SNEEGAS Range The Arkansas River basin in the northwest corner of the state, plus isolated populations in the upper Ouachita and Little Missouri rivers. Habitat and Habits Lives in clear, cool, spring-fed, gravel-bottom streams. Feeds on aquatic insects. Fish Fact This chub is so similar to the hornyhead chub of the White River basin that the two can be identified only by the distribution of tubercles (bumps on the heads of breeding males). As a Group Some chubs, like the redspot, build nests with stones on stream bottoms. These piles can reach a foot high and may contain stones from as far away as 20 feet. 25

26 MINNOW AND CARP FAMILY Cardinal Shiner Luxilus cardinalis WILLIAM ROSTON Range Arkansas River basin tributaries in the western Ozarks. Habitat and Habits Lives in moderately swift riffles and raceways of clear, gravel-bottom streams. Fish Fact This colorful minnow grows to almost 4 inches long, rather large for a shiner. As a Group Shiner refers to large-scaled, silvery minnows. 26

27 MINNOW AND CARP FAMILY Southern Redbelly Dace Phoxinus erythrogaster WILLIAM ROSTON Range Across northern Arkansas in the White, Black and Illinois river basins. An isolated population lives in streams on Crowley s Ridge. Habitat and Habits Lives in cool, clear, rocky headwater creeks. Swims in schools and forages on the bottom for algae and aquatic insects. Fish Fact The southern redbelly dace spawns in the nests of other minnow species. As a Group Dace are small, fine-scaled members of the minnow family that like cold water. This is the only species of dace in Arkansas. 27

28 SUCKER FAMILY Blue Sucker Cycleptus elongtaus GAROLD SNEEGAS Range Arkansas and Mississippi rivers and a few other lowland and foothill streams. Habitat and Habits This peculiar-looking but streamlined sucker is ideally suited for living on the bottom of fast-moving rivers. It feeds on aquatic insect larvae and some mollusks. Spawning occurs in May and June, usually over gravel. Fish Fact Suckers were very popular with early Arkansans. Families caught shoaling suckers, which they would clean and can on gravel bars. As a Group This family of bottom feeders includes redhorses, which require unpolluted water, hogsuckers and buffalo fishes. They all eat invertebrates and other organisms. 28

29 SUCKER FAMILY Black Buffalo Ictiobus niger Range Statewide in large rivers and reservoirs. GAROLD SNEEGAS Habitat and Habits The black buffalo prefers strong currents in big rivers. It eats mainly macroinvertebrates and mollusks. Spawning is believed to occur in April. Fish Fact Buffalo are an extremely important commercial fish species in this state. Thousands of tons are harvested from the wild each year and sold to fish markets here and abroad. As a Group Bigmouth and smallmouth buffalo are more numerous than black buffalo in Arkansas. They also live in larger streams and have similar feeding habits. 29

30 SUCKER FAMILY Golden Redhorse Moxostoma erythrurum WILLIAM ROSTON Range Clear, gravel-bottom streams of the Ozarks, Ouachitas and foothills. Habitat and Habits These shiny yellow suckers feed on algae, organic matter, invertebrates and small mollusks. Adults congregate in April and early May, swim up swift streams to spawn on gravel shoals and riffles. They don t build nests or protect young. Fish Fact When dogwoods bloom in the hill country, the redhorse is spawning. As a Group The other redhorse species in Arkansas are found in roughly the same waters as the golden. Their meat is tasty but, because of small bones, fillets must be deeply scored every quarter-inch before frying. 30

31 BULLHEAD CATFISH FAMILY Yellow Bullhead Ictalurus natalis Range Streams, ponds and reservoirs statewide. GAROLD SNEEGAS Habitat and Habits This small catfish, which rarely grows to a foot long, spawns in early summer. It feeds on aquatic insects, crustaceans and fish. It is distinguished from the other two bullheads by its white barbels (chin whiskers). Like other catfish, it uses its highly developed sense of smell to find food as it feeds at night. Fish Fact Sometimes mistakenly stocked as channel catfish, bullheads quickly overpopulate a pond and crowd out desirable species. As a Group Bullheads generally are thought to have a strong, unpleasant flavor and are not considered highquality table fare. Their flavor may be associated with the type of water they live in and the food available. 31

32 BULLHEAD CATFISH FAMILY Checkered Madtom Noturus flavater WILLIAM ROSTON Range Found only in the White River basin of Arkansas and Missouri. Habitat and Habits Lives among rocks and boulders in deeper pools of clear, cool, rocky creeks. They spawn in cavities under rocks; males guard the eggs. Fish Fact The checkered madtom, which grows to about 7 inches, is the second-largest species of madtom. As a Group The dorsal and pectoral fins of madtoms have a sharp spine that can inject a painful toxin. 32

33 BULLHEAD CATFISH FAMILY Flathead Catfish Pylodictis olivaris Range Lakes and streams statewide. WILLIAM ROSTON Habitat and Habits This mottled, camouflaged catfish prefers to hide on the bottom, on logs and among rocks to ambush its prey, usually crayfish and fish. It is an aggressive predator that often reaches 60 pounds in Arkansas. It feeds primarily at night. Spawning begins in late June. Fish Fact Unlike other catfish, flatheads rarely bite bait that is not alive. As a Group All 19 catfish species in Arkansas have sharp spines that can inflict painful wounds. Most have highly developed senses of smell and taste that help them find food and other catfish and avoid predators. Their whiskers help them navigate in the dark. 33

34 CAVEFISH FAMILY Ozark Cavefish Amblyopsis rosae DANTÉ FENOLIO Range Extreme northwest Arkansas, southwest Missouri and northeast Oklahoma. Habitat and Habits Lives in cave streams and other underground waters. Fish Fact Cavefish have little pigment and no eyes. They are long-lived and little is known about their habits. This species is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act of As a Group Arkansas is home to two species of cavefish, both in the Ozark Plateau. 34

35 PIRATE PERCH FAMILY Pirate Perch Aphredoderus sayanus GAROLD SNEEGAS Range Lowlands of Arkansas and suitable habitat of the Ouachita uplands. Habitat and Habits Quiet pools, swamps, ditches and oxbow lakes. Fish Fact This secretive fish spends most of its time hidden in vegetation or among roots beneath undercut banks. It is most active at dusk and dawn. As a Group The pirate perch is the only living member of its family. It lives in the lowlands of the eastern U.S. 35

36 KILLIFISH FAMILY Northern Studfish Fundulus catenatus WILLIAM ROSTON Range The Ozark Mountains and Ouachita Mountains. Habitat and Habits Quiet, shallow edges of pools in clear, upland streams with permanent flow. Males establish territory in shallow, quiet water, where eggs are laid on a gravel bottom. Fish Fact Male studfish are among the most brightly colored native fishes; females are tan and brown. As a Group Often called topminnows, which refers to an upturned mouth. They feed on mosquitoes and other aquatic insects at the surface. 36

37 LIVE-BEARER FAMILY Western Mosquitofish Gambusia affinis Range Statewide, but rare in the Ozarks. GAROLD SNEEGAS Habitat and Habits Prefers shallow, vegetated, backwater areas. Found in a variety of streams, from spring runs to swamps, to the edges of large rivers. Fish Fact The mosquitofish is a live-bearer, like guppies in pet shops. It is the only live-bearer native to Arkansas, and can produce up to four broods in a summer. This species has been introduced for mosquito control around the world. As a Group Mosquitofish (and other Poeciliidae members) use a modified gonopodium (anal fin) to transfer sperm to the female, which can store the sperm for several months before fertilizing eggs. 37

38 SILVERSIDE FAMILY Brook Silverside Labidesthes sicculus Range Statewide. WILLAM ROSTON Habitat and Habits This fish tends to prefer the surface of calm, backwater areas, where it feeds on midges (chironomids), small insects and zooplankton. It spawns in late spring and summer, laying eggs that stick to objects underwater. Fish Fact Eggs hatch in about a week, fish grow rapidly and the life cycle is completed in about a year. As a Group Brook and inland silversides live in Arkansas. Most members of this family live in saltwater. 38

39 TEMPERATE BASS FAMILY White Bass Morone chrysops WILLIAM ROSTON Range Statewide; abundant in large streams and reservoirs. Habitat and Habits White bass school and live in open water. Adults eat small shad in morning and evening. They make spawning runs up tributaries in early March. Fish Fact White bass feeding on small shad in reservoirs may create acres of thrashing on the surface. As a Group Yellow bass the other native Morone is a small fish that tends to overpopulate and is considered a nuisance. The sea-going striped bass has been stocked in many reservoirs and is along with the manmade hybrid of the striper and the white a very popular sport fish. 39

40 SUNFISH FAMILY Ozark Bass Ambloplites constellatus WILLIAM ROSTON Range White River drainage in northwest Arkansas. Habitat and Habits Clear, highland streams and a few clear reservoirs, among woody debris, crevices, overhangs and other structure. They feed on insects and crayfish, and spawn in April and May. Fish Fact Ozark bass aggressively take a variety of lures. This popular sport fish is good to eat and can reach a pound or more. As a Group The rock bass and the shadow bass are close cousins with different color patterns that inhabit different drainages in Arkansas. 40

41 SUNFISH FAMILY Bluegill Lepomis macrochirus Range Almost statewide. ERIC ENGBRETSON Habitat and Habits Bluegill, among the larger sunfish, thrive in still, warm water such as ponds and small lakes. They have been widely stocked in farm ponds. Spawning begins in May and can last until July; nests are built close together. Males guard eggs but not free-swimming fry. Bluegill eat insects, crayfish and small fish. Fish Fact Bluegill and largemouth bass evolved together in the big rivers and oxbows of the U.S. and have a dynamic relationship. When their numbers are in balance, bluegill feed bass and bass keep bluegill from overpopulating. As a Group Bream fishing is one of the most popular outdoor activities in Arkansas. Since bluegill are colonial, once an angler finds one, he has found many. 41

42 SUNFISH FAMILY 42 Longear Sunfish Lepomis megalotis Range Abundant statewide. GAROLD SNEEGAS Habitat and Habits This little sunfish, as beautiful as any tropical fish, has adapted to almost all types of habitat in Arkansas but prefers the clear streams and reservoirs in the highlands. It is an opportunistic feeder but mainly eats insects and crayfish. It spawns in colonies on gravel bottoms in June. Fish Fact Longears are aggressive and will happily snap at your freckles and hairs when you re standing in their water. As a Group Twenty species of sunfish live in Arkansas, including black basses, crappie, rock bass and bream (bluegill, redear and warmouth). They make nests and guard their young from predators. Sunfish often are the most numerous species in a body of water.

43 SUNFISH FAMILY Smallmouth Bass Micropterus dolomieui ERIC ENGBRETSON Range Throughout the cool, clear streams of the Ozark and Ouachita mountains and foothills, and in some deep, clear reservoirs. Habitat and Habits Spawning usually begins when surface water temperature reaches about 57 degrees in early April. Smallmouth feed on crayfish, amphibians and fish. Some may reach 12 years old. They lurk among woody debris, boulders, overhangs and other structures in streams. Fish Fact Smallmouth are considered to be the hardestfighting bass pound for pound, and often strike a lure multiple times. They are prized by float fishermen. As a Group In general, largemouth bass are found in slower, murkier reaches of streams; smallmouth live in the clear headwaters, and spotted bass in between. 43

44 SUNFISH FAMILY Largemouth Bass Micropterus salmoides Range Statewide; widely stocked. ERIC ENGBRETSON Habitat and Habits Largemouth bass spawn in Arkansas in April. The male aggressively guards the nest until the young begin to swim away. They feed first on zooplankton then switch to insects, fish, crayfish and even small animals or birds. They re usually found along the shoreline or other structure in lakes and streams. Fish Fact The largemouth bass has the largest mouth for its size of any freshwater fish and is a voracious predator, which explains why it is the most popular sport fish in the state. As a Group Largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass are called black bass because their fry (recently hatched young) are black. 44

45 SUNFISH FAMILY Black Crappie Pomoxis salmoides Range Statewide; widely stocked. WILLIAM ROSTON Habitat and Habits Black crappie are most abundant in reservoirs, oxbow lakes and backwater of large rivers. They thrive among woody cover or aquatic vegetation along the shoreline. Adults feed on fish but also eat insects. Spawning begins when the water temperature hits 64 degrees. Males build nests and guard the eggs and fry. Fish Fact When less than a year old, crappie often migrate into open water of lakes, probably to escape bass and other predators along the shoreline. As a Group White and black crappie are among the most popular panfish in Arkansas and second only to largemouth bass as sport fish. They are prized for their sweet flavor. 45

46 PYGMY SUNFISH FAMILY Banded Pygmy Sunfish Elassoma zonatum GAROLD SNEEGAS Range Lowlands of the southeastern half of Arkansas. Rarely found in the Ouachita and Ozark mountain regions. Habitat and Habits Lives in well-vegetated, sluggish swamps, sloughs and backwaters of oxbow lakes. It is a secretive sight feeder that eats only live prey. Fish Fact Not a true sunfish; it s a member of a family of very small fish that grow to about 1.5 inches. As a Group Pygmy sunfish were once placed in the sunfish family, but many characteristics, such as a missing lateral line, have deemed these fish worthy of their own family. 46

47 PERCH FAMILY Stippled Darter Etheostoma punctulatum WILLIAM ROSTON Range Parts of the White and Arkansas river basins in the Ozarks. Habitat and Habits Thrives in headwater creeks and spring runs, as well as larger creeks and small rivers. Requires clear water and permanent flow. Often found among aquatic vegetation. Fish Fact Referred to as stenothermal, which means it has adapted to a narrow temperature range. That s why it s often found near springs, which have constant temperatures. As a Group Darters have little or no swim bladder, the organ that fish inflate to rise toward the surface. Darters tend to sink and they get their common name from their habit of darting among rocks. 47

48 PERCH FAMILY Orangethroat Darter Etheostoma spectabile BRIAN WAGNER Range Northwest quarter of the state to Little Rock, Arkansas River and upper White River basins. Strawberry and Current darters were once included in this species. Habitat and Habits Lives among rocks in riffles of small headwater creeks. The orangethroat spawns in spring and buries its eggs in an unguarded gravel nest. Fish Fact Like most darters, the females are drab and the males are brightly colored, especially during breeding season. As a Group Darters belong to the family Percidae, along with walleye. Arkansas has 43 darter species. 48

49 PERCH FAMILY Logperch Percina caprodes GAROLD SNEEGAS Range Most of Arkansas but has not been found in the mainstream of the Mississippi or Red rivers. Habitat and Habits Most abundant in the Ozarks and Ouachitas, this is the state s most adaptable darter. It lives in a variety of habitats, including reservoirs. Fish Fact The logperch, Arkansas largest darter, can grow to 7 inches. As a Group Darters in the genus Percina have a small swim bladder, so they move more freely than their Etheostoma cousins. 49

50 PERCH FAMILY Walleye Stizostedion vitreum ERIC ENGBRETSON Range Native to the Ozarks and Ouachitas; widely stocked in reservoirs. Habitat and Habits This nocturnal predator has big eyes adapted for low light and a formidable set of teeth. It feeds on crayfish, amphibians and fish. Spawning begins in late February and continues until almost April. Walleye prefer gravel shoals in streams but also spawn near a lake s shore. Fish Fact Walleye taste great but are not especially hardfighting sport fish. As a Group Sauger are the only other sport fish in this group, which includes darters. The sauger is a much smaller cousin of the walleye, although similar in appearance, and is found in large streams. 50

51 DRUM FAMILY Freshwater Drum Aplodinotus grunniens ERIC ENGBRETSON Range Statewide in large bodies of water; most abundant in large rivers. Habitat and Habits Large, slow-flowing rivers and large reservoirs. Drum feed on small fish, crustaceans and mollusks. It is a popular sport fish but mediocre as table fare. Fish Fact The drum gets its name from drumming sounds made by males during spawning season by contracting muscles next to their air bladders. As a Group The freshwater drum is a member of the family Sciaenidae, primarily a saltwater group. This drum, an important commercial fish, is the only member of this family in Arkansas. 51

52 SCULPIN FAMILY Banded Sculpin Cottus carolinae Range White and Illinois river basins. Habitat and Habits Lives among rocks in riffles of cold, highly oxygenated springs and spring-fed creeks. They thrive in swift water, where they feed on insects, crustaceans and small fish. They spawn in late winter and early spring. Fish Fact Sculpins are a favorite food of trout. WILLIAM ROSTON As a Group A sculpin resembles a darter with a huge mouth. Most sculpins live in or near saltwater. Arkansas is home to the banded sculpin and the Ozark sculpin. 52

53 Aquatic Resources Education Program Learning more about Arkansas fish is easy thanks to this program, which includes mobile aquariums and classroom aquariums. The trailer-mounted aquariums are filled with fish native to Arkansas and are available for county fairs, festivals, schools and civic events. The classroom aquarium program provides 55-gallon aquariums for teachers. For more information about these programs, visit the AGFC Web site, or call (501) AQUATIC RESOURCES Aquatic Resources Education A R E You Fishing in Arkansas? 53

54 STREAM TEAM Arkansas Stream Team Program More people are discovering the beauty of our state s waters. And, even though we want everyone to enjoy what Arkansas has to offer, we must protect these waters from the problems caused by increased use. With more than 90,000 miles of streams in the state, that s a huge job. The Arkansas Stream Team Program is a volunteerbased effort coordinated by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to keep our waters clean and healthy. The program encourages volunteers of all ages and walks of life to band together to preserve our water for future generations. Stream Team volunteers are involved in tasks ranging from litter control and shoreline stabilization to aquatic resource education and petitioning for environmental law policy at the state level. For information on how to join the Stream Team program or start a chapter of your own, contact the AGFC at (800)

55 Fish as Pets Keeping native fish in an aquarium is a great way to understand and appreciate these little residents of The Natural State. But be aware that some of these fish require specialized conditions and may not be as easy to care for as their pet shop cousins. Arkansans are allowed to keep native fish as pets if legally collected as bait or taken by sportfishing methods. See the current Arkansas Fishing Guidebook for details. FISH AS PETS Don t Let em Go! If you keep native fish, you must keep them for the rest of their lives. Releasing fish is prohibited because fish released in areas where they do not naturally occur can introduce disease. 55

56 ENDANGERED SPECIES Endangered Species Arkansas endangered fish include Ozark cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae), leopard darter (Percina pantherina), and pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhyncus albus). By AGFC code (and federal law) it is illegal to import, transport, sell, purchase, take or possess any endangered species of wildlife or parts thereof. Leopard darter RICHARD STANDAGE Ozark cavefish 56 DANTÉ FENOLIO

57 Nuisance Aquatic Species Aquatic plants and animals that escape or are purposefully released into waters where they are not native can become a nuisance. Aquatic nuisance species can upset the ecological balance and cause economic harm. Examples of aquatic nuisance species in Arkansas are zebra mussels, bighead carp and hydrilla. You can do your part to prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species by never releasing plants, fish or animals into a body of water unless they come out of that body of water, and eliminating water from livewells, motors and other equipment before transplanting equipment. For more information on how you can help, visit NUISANCE AQUATIC SPECIES Northern snakehead U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY, FLORIDA INTEGRATED SCIENCE CENTER Red-bellied piranha PIRANHA 2006 BRIAN JORG CRITTERZONE.COM 57

58 FISHERIES STAFF CREDITS Fisheries Staff Credits Michael Armstrong Chief of Fisheries Coordinators Mark Oliver Assistant Chief of Fisheries Management Andrea Daniel Fisheries Staff Biologist Brian Wagner Nongame Aquatics Biologist Lee Holt Fisheries Management Biologist Contributors Jimmy Barnett Aquatic Resources Education Coordinator Sam Barkley District Fisheries Supervisor Stephen Brown Fisheries Managment Biologist Sam Henry Fisheries Management Biologist Frank Leone Fisheries Management Biologist Ron Moore District Fisheries Supervisor Jeremy Risley Fisheries Management Biologist 58

59

60 2 Natural Resources Drive Little Rock, AR (800)

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