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Yellowfin madtom

The Yellowfin madtom (Noturus flavipinnis) is historically known from only six streams -- South Chickamauga Creek (GA), Hines Creek, a Clinch River tributary (TN), North Fork Holston River (VA), Copper Creek (VA), Powell River (TN), and Citico Creek (TN) -- but there is considerable evidence that it also occurred in Abrams Creek (TN) [1]. It is believed to have once been widely distributed in lower gradient streams throughout the Tennessee River drainage from Chickamauga River upstream [1]. It was feared to be extinct as of 1969 [4], but three populations were discovered in the early 1970s: Powell River, Copper Creek, and Citico Creek [1, 5]. Each of these small populations is separated by an impassible dam.

The madtom prefers small-to-medium size streams with a moderate current, warm water, good water quality, and little siltation [1]. Historic populations were extirpated by dams, water pollution, and exotic fish. It was listed as an endangered species in 1977 with critical habitat designated in the Powell River (main channel from the Virginia-Tennessee State line upstream through Lee County) and Copper River (Copper Creek, main channel from its junction with Clinch River upstream through Scott County and upstream in Russell County to Dickensonville). Three natural populations were known at the time of listing and a fourth was discovered in 2004: one (possibly two) have expanded there range, two have increased in number. Two additional populations have been established.

Powell River, TN. In 2001 the yellowfin madtom was found at three new localities: several miles downstream of Buchanan Ford at the first bridge crossing, several miles above Buchanan Ford at the mouth of Mulberry Creek, and in the Virginia section of the Powell at Fletcher Ford [3]. This was the first historical or current report of the species in the Virginia section of the river. The river was described as supporting a "pretty good population" in 2004 [12].

Copper Creek, VA, tributary to the Clinch River. Sixteen individuals were observed in 2001 [3]. Copper appears to be the smallest natural population and was described as "hanging on" in 2004 [12].

Citico Creek, TN. Five hundred adults [6] and 125 annual nests were thought to exist in the 1980s. A record number of fish were observed in 2001 (93 individuals) within its three mile range within the creek [3]. The species was considered to be doing "very well" there. Much of all of the species range occurs within the Cherokee National Forest.

Clinch River, VA. A "pretty good population" was discovered spanning 15 miles of river centered on Cleveland, VA in 2004 well upstream of the Copper Creek confluence [10, 12]. Habitat below and above the occupied reach appears to be unsuitable. This population likely existed at the time of listing, but was undectable due to a small population size [10]. It recent discovery has been attributed to better surveying techniques (e.g. nightime snorkling) and an increase in population size to detectable levels [10].

Abrams Creek, TN. Yellowfin madtoms from Citico Creek were reintroduced to Abrams Creek within Great Smoky Mountains National Park by Conservation Fisheries, Inc. in 1986 and all subsequent years through 2004 [7]. A naturally reproducing population has been established and dispersed beyond the stocking sites [3]. The fish/observation effort ratio was considered "good" in 2001 [3] and the population to be "doing very well" in 2005 [7]. Stocking was reduced to a level sufficient to augment genetic diversity and encourage dispersal in recent years and ceased in 2005 [10]. However, the species is still not as well established as the smoky madtom and duskytail darter which were simultaneously reintroduced [10].

Tellico River. In 2002 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a decision to reintroduce the yellowfin madtom as an "experimental non-essential" population to the Tellico River, between the backwaters of the Tellico Reservoir (approximately river mile 19) and river mile 33 (near the Tellico Ranger Station), Monroe County, Tennessee [2]. Fish were introduced in 2003 and by 2005 natural reproduction had not yet been documented, but the species was still present [7]. Many years passed between the first stockings and the first evidence of natural reproduction in Abrams Creek, so the lack of current evidence is not surprising.

[1] USFWS. 1983. Yellowfin Madtom Recovery Plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, GA. 33 pp.
[2] USFWS. 2002. Establishment of Nonessential Experimental Population Status and Reintroduction of Four Fishes in the Tellico River. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, August 12, 2002 (67 FR 52420).
[3] Shute, P.W. and D.A. Etnier. 2001. Regional Reports: 2002 Report of Region 3 - North-Central. Southeastern Fishes Council, http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/organizations/sfc/regionalreports/R3NC2002.htm
[4] Taylor, W.R. 1969. A revision of the catfish genus Noturus Rafinesque with an analysis of higher groups in the Ictaluridae. Bull. U.S. Natl. Mus. No. 282. 315 pp.
[5] Taylor, W.R., R.E. Jenkins, and E.A. Lachner. 1971. Rediscovery and description of the ictalurid catfish, Noturus flavipinnis. Proc. Biol. Soc. Wash. 83:469-476.
[6] Shute, P.W. 1984. Ecology of the rare yellowfin madtom, Noturus flavipinnis Taylor, in Citico Creek, Tennessee. M.S. Thesis. Univ. Tenn., Knoxville. 101 pp.
[7] Shute, J.R. 2005. Fall 2005 Update. Conservation Fisheries, Inc. Newsletter #29, September 2005, available at www.conservationfisheries.org/Newsletters/newsletter_29_sept_2005.htm
[8] USFWS. 1988. Determination of Nonessential Experimental Population Status for an introduced Population of the Yeliowfin Madtom in Virginia and Tennessee. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, August 4, 1988 (53 FR 29335).
[9] Shute, J.R. 2005. Personal communication with J.R. Shute, Conservation Fisheries, Inc., November 11, 2005.
[10] Rakes, P. 2005. Personal communication with Patrick Rakes, Conservation Fisheries, Inc., November 11, 2005.
[11] Lennon, R.E. and P.S. Parker. 1959.The Reclamation of Indian and Abrams Creeks, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Special Scientific Report - Fisheries No. 306. U. S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC.
[12] Shute, J.R. 2004. Fall 2004 Update. Conservation Fisheries, Inc. Newsletter #25, December 2004.

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