Endangered fish

Issue 4 > Meet the Managers > Water quality issues: Endangered fish
Fish eggs.

Endangered fish lay their eggs (shown here in a net) under rocks in Smoky Mountain streams.

NPS photo.

Biologists have reintroduced four federally Threatened & Endangered (T&E) fish species to Abrams Creek to enhance their populations. The fish included the:

  • Endangered Smoky madtom
  • Endangered Duskytail darter
  • Threatened Yellowfin madtom
  • Threatened Spotfin Chub

To find out if their efforts have been successful, four graduate students from Tennessee Tech University conducted distribution surveys to figure out where the reintroduced fish have ended up. They snorkeled and waded through 12 miles of lower Abrams Creek in search of the fish. They found three of the four species—duskytail darters, yellowfin madtoms, and smoky madtoms—which meant that since they were reintroduced, they had been reproducing on their own. This bodes well for their continued survival.

They found no sign of the fourth fish—the spotfin chub—and consider this fish extirpated (or locally extinct) from Abrams Creek because it isn’t connected to other streams that the fish need to disperse. The students noted that none of the fish moved very far from their original release sites, even after several generations, so future stocking should happen upstream to distribute the fish throughout Abrams Creek.

Fisheries biologists had also been wondering if activity at Abrams Creek campground—tubing, wading, and fishing in the stream nearby—causes decreases in endangered fish. Students studied the fish habitats and the fish themselves in these areas and found that indeed, peoples’ wading, rock-moving, and trampling did harm the habitat. However, the endangered fish avoided the area, making it impossible to measure direct physical effects of the campground on the animals.

Park partners also add to our knowledge about rare and endangered fish. Conservation Fisheries researches existing rare fish populations to determine if populations in the Great Smokies and Citico Creek outside the Park are genetically different.

Find more general information about Smoky Mountain fish, including endangered species and species lists.

Return to Meet the Managers: Fisheries Management.

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