River Chub are a common fish found throughout many Appalachian streams and throughout Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They can grow up to 12” long and tend to live along the bottom of cool, rocky streams. They eat a wide variety of aquatic insects, other fish, and plant matter. River chub often live together in small schools of up to a dozen individuals.
River chub play a very vital role in river ecology through one of their specialized behaviors, nest building. Brightly colored male river chubs collect stones up to golf ball size with their mouths and stack them in piles. These stone piles act as a suitable nest to protect their fertilized eggs. Records show that these stacked stone nests, when completed, may weigh in excess of several hundred pounds!
River chub young are not the only ones who benefit from these stone nests. Many other species such as Tennessee shiners, warpaint shiners, central stonerollers, saffron shiners and several other species may also use river chub nests to spawn over so that their eggs and offspring are protected. These smaller fish are unable to build a large stone nest on their own and rely on the river chub to survive.
Many of the fish seen here are normally plain in coloration most of the year, but become very vivid reds, purples, and other bright colors to attract a mate. This spawning behavior typically occurs between April through July and can be readily observed in streams such as the Little River and Little Pigeon River in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.