Stream Fish Distribution and Abundance
The stream fish fauna of the Spring River Tributaries Watershed in Missouri is dominated by species characteristic of the Ozark Faunal Region which make up approximately 67 % of the total species in the watershed (Table Bc01) (MDC 1998a). Based on the faunal region classification of species as developed by Pflieger (1989) as well as distribution data presented by Pflieger (1997), percentages of species within the watershed which are characteristic of other faunal regions include 9% Ozark-Prairie, 4% Ozark-lowland, 2% prairie, and 11% widely distributed.
Since 1963, forty six fish species representing 13 families have been observed in the Spring River Tributaries Watershed in Missouri (Table Bc01 and Figure Bc01)(MDC 1998a and Pflieger 1997). This includes two species which are currently listed as "species of conservation concern": the blue sucker (Cycleptus elongatus) and the southern cavefish (Typhlichthys subterraneus) (MDC 1999a and MDC 1999b).
In 1997, fish were collected at four locations throughout the watershed as part of the watershed assessment and inventory (WAI) effort. These collections yielded 35 species of 12 families. 4 species had not been observed in previous collections from the watershed in Missouri cataloged in the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Fish Collection Database. These species included brown trout (Salmo trutta), largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), as well as a single larval lamprey (family Petromyzontidae). All new species except for largemouth bass were collected on the main stem of the Warm Fork of the Spring River, a stream which, prior to 1986, had no MDC Fish Community Collection Data. Only 3 MDC fish community collections had been performed on the Warm Fork prior to the watershed assessment and inventory collections. These included collections in 1986, 1992, and one collection in 1996. Largemouth bass were collected at one site on the South Fork of the Spring River at White Ranch Conservation Area; an area which had not been previously sampled (MDC 1998a).
The western mosquito fish (Gambusia affinis) was found in the Warm Fork of the Spring River, a stream in which it had not been previously sampled. Its new found presence in the Warm Fork should be of no surprise 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.
Ten species which had been observed in the watershed prior to 1997 were absent in the WAI collections. These included the blue sucker (Cycleptus elongatus), Ozark chub (Erimystax harryi), creek chubsucker (Erimyzon oblongus), White River saddle darter (Etheostoma e. euzonum), banded darter (Etheostoma zonale), bigeye chub (Notropis amblops), Ohio logperch (Percina c. caprodes), fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas), creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus) and southern cavefish (Typhlichthys subterraneus). For all species except bigeye chub, only a few individuals were observed in earlier MDC collections. One bigeye chub was observed in a 1963 collection from a single site on Myatt Creek. A combined 19 were observed in two 1992 collections. One collection was from the previous 1963 site on Myatt Creek, while the other site was located on the Warm Fork of the Spring River. Sites with habitat typical of that inhabited by the southern cavefish as described by Pflieger (1997) were not sampled; thus nearly eliminating the possibility of an observation. Due to the small numbers of these 10 species found in earlier fish collections, and a shortage of historical data, it is difficult to determine the significance of the absence of these species in these latter collections. In order to gain a better understanding of the status of these species in the watershed, future fish community sampling will be necessary.
Little data is available regarding sport fish populations within the Spring River Tributaries Watershed within Missouri. Much of this fishery consists of small, wadeable, creeks and small rivers. Because much of the land ownership within the watershed is private, stream fishing access is limited.
Most of the fishable streams within the Spring River Tributaries Watershed in Missouri can be considered warm water/cool water fisheries due to the somewhat sporadic spring influence within the watershed. Sunfish dominate these sport fisheries. Sport fish species (as defined as game fish in MDC 1999a) include shadow bass, and smallmouth bass. Largemouth bass, while prevalent in ponds and small lakes throughout the watershed, seem to play a lesser role in the stream sport fishery. Chain pickerel, brown trout, and rainbow trout have also been observed in the Warm Fork of the Spring River. Along with the previously mentioned sport fish species, bluegill, green sunfish, longear sunfish, northern hogsucker and black redhorse occur in the streams throughout the watershed.
Approximately 3.1 miles of the Warm Fork of the Spring River is designated as a "coldwater sport fishery" within the Rules of Department of Natural Resources Division 20-Clean Water Commission (1996). As previously mentioned three individuals of two species of salmonids (brown trout and rainbow trout) have been observed in fish collections in the watershed. Incidentally only one of the individuals was observed in the designated area. Despite these observations this is not considered to be a significant salmonid fishery.
Due to its limited size, the fishery of the Spring River Tributaries Watershed could be susceptible to over-exploitation. However, the large amount of land in private ownership and thus limited access probably helps lessen this risk.
There have been no official fish stocking efforts within the Spring River Tributaries Watershed in Missouri (Mayers, personal communication). There are currently no public fishing lakes within the Spring River Tributaries Watershed. Grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), bluegill, largemouth bass, and channel catfish are routinely stocked in private lakes and ponds throughout the watershed. However it is difficult to estimate the extent of this due to the possibility of stocking by private aquaculture. Potential for these fish to be introduced into streams of the watershed during heavy rain events always exists. Undoubtably, bait bucket releases have also occurred in streams throughout the watershed. Effects of these 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.
Little information exists regarding freshwater mussel species within the Spring River Tributaries Watershed in Missouri. As of this writing, no comprehensive mussel collections have been performed in the watershed. However, Duchrow (1977) does list 3 mussel species identified in benthic invertebrate samples performed on the Warm Fork of the Spring River in 1974. These include the Ozark Pigtoe, (Fusconaia ozarkensis); yellow sand shell (Lampsilis teres teres); and Ozark Brokenray (Lampsilis reeviana brevicula). In addition, Oesch (1995) mentions 3 species which have been identified from the Spring River Tributaries Watershed in Missouri. These are the paper pondshell (Utterbackia imbecillis); Arkansas Brokenray (Lampsilis reeviana reeviana); and the creeper (Strophitus undulatus undulatus). L. reeviana reeviana is listed as a "species of conservation concern" (MDC 1999b). One non-native species, the Asian Clam (Corbicula fluminea), has been observed at two sites on the Warm Fork (MDC 1998d). Of the five species identified from the watershed; one, L. teres teres, has not been observed in adjoining watersheds in Missouri. In addition to the five mussel species found in Missouri, 18 species have been identified from the South Fork of the Spring River in Arkansas (Table Bc02) (Faiman, personal communication). Four of these species are listed as "species of conservation concern" including, the Curtis’ Pearlymussel (Epioblasma florentina curtisi) which is a state and federal endangered species, (Bruenderman, personal communication; MDC 1999b).
As stated previously, there appears to be little baseline information available regarding freshwater mussel communities within the Spring River Tributaries Watershed in Missouri. Future sampling will be necessary in order to gain an adequate assessment of the freshwater mussel community and it’s distribution within the Spring River Tributaries Watershed in Missouri. Once adequate baseline data is obtained, a schedule for monitoring can be established.
Eight species of crayfish have been collected at 4 sites or reported from the Spring River Tributaries Watershed. (Table Bc03 and Figure Bc02)( MDC 1988, MDC 1998c, and Pflieger 1996).Three of these species are listed as "species of conservation concern". These include the Salem cave crayfish (Cambarus hubrichti); coldwater crayfish (Orconectus eupunctus); and the Mammoth Spring crayfish (Orconectes marchandi) (MDC 1999b).
The Salem cave crayfish (Cambarus hubrichti) has been recorded at two sites within the Watershed (MDC 1988, MDC 1998c, and Pflieger 1996). The Salem cave crayfish has been found only in Missouri and is believed to occur throughout the Eastern Ozarks from Camden to Crawford Counties, southward to Oregon and Ripley Counties (Pflieger 1996). As its name suggests, it is a subterranean species which has been observed in a variety of subterranean habitats such as cave streams over various substrates, subterranean lakes, as well as the outlets of large springs near the limit of daylight (Pflieger 1996). It has also, on occasion, been observed in more terrestrial areas such as the outflow of a small spring, the pool at the bottom of a deep sinkhole, and the ruts left by a truck in a fen.
The coldwater crayfish (Orconectus eupunctus) has been collected from one site within the Spring River Tributaries Watershed. In Missouri, it occurs only within the Spring River Tributaries and Eleven Point Watersheds (MDC 1988, MDC 1998c and Pflieger 1996). As its name suggests the coldwater crayfish seems to prefer streams whose temperature is highly influenced by springs (Pflieger 1996). Within the Eleven Point Watershed, this species only inhabits the Eleven Point River and Greer Spring Branch. It does not ascend the river much above Greer Spring.
The mammoth spring crayfish (Orconectes marchandi) generally occupies riffles over a gravel or rubble substrate. In Missouri it is known only to occur in the Warm Fork of the Spring River (Pflieger 1996).
In addition to the previously mentioned species, 5 other crayfish have been identified from the Spring River Tributaries Watershed. These include the Hubbs’ Crayfish (Cambarus hubbsi); Ozark crayfish (Orconectes ozarkae); spothanded crayfish (Orconectus punctimanus); and the northern crayfish (Orconectus virilis) (MDC 1988, MDC 1998c, and Pflieger 1996).
As of this writing (1999), all major subwatersheds within the Spring River Tributaries Watershed have available (within the Missouri Department of Conservation Database) crayfish collection data except for the Myatt Creek Subwatershed. In order to adequately assess and monitor the crayfish community of the watershed including "species of conservation concern", future monitoring on a regular basis will be necessary. Also, it will be necessary to extend sampling efforts to the Myatt Creek Subwatershed in order to develop an adequate baseline of crayfish community data.
Benthic macro-invertebrates were sampled within the Spring River Tributaries Watershed in 1974 (Table Bc04 and Figure Bc03)(Duchrow 1977 and MDC 1998c). A total of 8 collections were made from 2 sites both of which were on the Warm Fork of the Spring River. These collections yielded 7,963 individuals of 74 species, 45 families, and 18 orders. Analysis of collection data indicate that species of the order Ephemeroptera were the most prevalent comprising between 34% and 70% of individuals observed in each collection (Table Bc05).
Benthic invertebrate sampling is an important component to water quality monitoring. Unfortunately no long term comprehensive benthic invertebrate data exists for the entire Spring River Tributaries Watershed. Future Benthic invertebrate sampling will be necessary in order to provide adequate benthic invertebrate community as well water quality monitoring for the entire watershed .
Species of Conservation Concern
As of this writing, there are 39 species and sub-species of conservation concern within the Spring River Tributaries Watershed (Table Bc06) (MDC 1999a and MDC 1999b). This includes two fish species (blue sucker and southern cavefish), one mussel species (Arkansas Brokenray), and three crayfish species (coldwater crayfish, Mammoth Spring Crayfish, and Salem Cave Crayfish).