Fish Community Data
Aquatic sampling in the Elk River basin has been ongoing since before the initial elements occurrence record (EOR) was written in 1982. Table 13 lists fish that have been collected and identified by sub-basin within the Elk River basin in Missouri using records from the 1930s to present. Collections of fish were also made by the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Regional Staff during 1997 and 1998 (Figure 19). The samples were collected to assess basin-wide fish communities. Thirty-five species of fish were identified from these samples.
Seventy species of fish have been collected from the Elk River basin in Missouri. There are no sample records from the time period 1965-1982 for the Elk River basin. Fifty-nine species were collected prior to 1982 and eleven species have not been collected since 1965. The channel darter was last sampled prior to 1946 and never had a widespread occurrence in the watershed. According to Pflieger (1997) the channel darter probably no longer exists in the watershed. Table 14 lists the species and indicates the time periods in which they were collected. Fifteen species found between 1982 and 1991 were not sampled during 1997-98. These absences may have occurred for several reasons. Only specific sportfish populations were sampled during 1998 samples (N = 2) and non-game fish were not collected. For the majority of the fish missing from the 1997 samples (N = 17), inadequate sampling or sampling error could be factors in their absence. Twelve of the species missing from the 1997 samples, grass carp, common carp, quillback, bigmouth buffalo, river redhorse, black redhorse, golden redhorse, shorthead redhorse, white crappie, black crappie, warmouth, and freshwater drum, are large species which readily avoid seine hauls and are commonly found in habitats too brushy or deep to seine. Seining was the only method used in these samples, and is probably the reason for their absence. Only one fathead minnow has been collected (in 1984), and Pflieger (1997) indicates that most records of fathead minnows from the Ozark faunal region, including the Elk River basin, are introductions from bait buckets, and few self-sustaining populations exist. Ozark cavefish usually are not captured unless sought in caves, or near spring openings flowing from a subterranean source during high flow or pollution related events. Logperch was the other species not captured during seining in 1997.
It is possible that some species are being lost from the watershed. Bluntface shiners are a state watch list species, and Pflieger (1997) lists them as more common and widespread prior to the 1950s. They were sampled at five locations prior to 1964. Bluntface shiners were last collected by MDC personnel in the watershed in 1991 in the lower Elk River. The USGS conducted a series of surveys on the lower Elk River as part of a water quality study (NAWQA) and captured low numbers of bluntface shiners in 1994 and 1995 (J. Petersen, USGS, pers. comm.). The same site was surveyed by MDC in 1997 with no bluntface shiners collected. Wedgespot shiners were last collected by MDC personnel in the watershed in 1991. The USGS conducted a series of surveys on the lower Elk River as part of a water quality study (NAWQA) and collected low numbers of wedgespot shiners in 1993, 1994, and 1995 (J. Petersen, USGS, pers. comm.). It appears that bluntface shiners and wedgespot shiners are still present in the lower Elk River but are not as abundant as they were historically. Fish surveys seem to indicate a healthy fish population. Declines in some species have occurred, but may not be unique to the Elk River system.
Table 15 lists crayfish with ranges including the Elk River basin. Only four of the six species have been documented by collection in the basin. Mussel surveys for basin streams are limited. A survey of mussels in the Elk River basin was conducted by Mark Gordon in the late 1970s (Gordon 1980). Thirty species were collected from the basin. Oesch (1984) indicates many mussels occurred in the basin historically. Table 16 lists mussel and snail species collected in the Elk River basin.
Amphibians and Reptiles
There is a diverse assemblage of amphibians and reptiles found in the Elk River basin. Table 17 lists the amphibians and Table 18 lists the reptiles. These tables also include the known range for each species in the basin.
Species of Conservation Concern
The Elk River Basin contains a unique and diverse flora and fauna that includes four federally endangered species. The endangered species are running buffalo clover (Trifolium stoloniferum), peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), and gray bat (Myotis grisescens). The two federally threatened species found in the Elk River basin are the Ozark cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae) and bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)(Table 19).
Large numbers of fish have been stocked in private impoundments such as farm ponds throughout the Elk River basin. Stocking records for public waters are maintained by the state and federal agencies responsible for their management. Rainbow trout, brook trout, brown trout, lake trout, and grayling were historically stocked throughout the basin, but with the exception of small springfed stream reaches that support rainbow trout, they were unsuccessful. Excluding private impoundment stocking, the only documented warmwater fish stockings in the basin have been carried out by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Bella Vista Property Owners Association in the lakes at Bella Vista, Arkansas. Largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, channel catfish, blue catfish, black crappie, white crappie, and fathead minnows have been stocked in various lakes in Bella Vista. These lakes empty into streams in the Little Sugar Creek sub-basin.
The first fishing effort and harvest information available for the Elk River basin is the statewide general creel census compiled by Funk (1969) for the years 1946 through 1958. A wide variety of fish species were reportedly harvested during this time. The fish harvest by number indicated that channel catfish were the most commonly taken closely followed by suckers and green sunfish. Other fish, in order by number harvested, were smallmouth bass, rock bass, freshwater drum, largemouth bass, other sunfish, trout, common carp, crappie, white bass, bullheads, flathead catfish, and buffalo. The most recent survey found that catfish were the most sought-after species, followed by black bass. Using harvest to compare present information to historical information, catfish is still numerically the most commonly harvested fish species, followed by largemouth bass, white bass, smallmouth bass, rock bass, drum, suckers, gar, and trout (Weithman, MDC, pers.comm.).
The Elk River basin in Missouri is managed under Missouri’s statewide stream regulations with no special management regulations specifically designated for it. The public waters of the Elk River basin in Arkansas and Oklahoma are managed by their respective state fish and wildlife agencies. The lakes in Bella Vista, Arkansas are privately owned and managed. Restrictions and rules can and do change, so it is best to consult the latest fishing regulations.