Robust Redhorse Conservation

robust redhorse by Jimmy Evans/Ga. DNR

The robust redhorse is a rare sucker with wild populations occurring in limited reaches of the Ocmulgee, Oconee and Savannah rivers in Georgia and the Pee Dee River in North and South Carolina. Prior to its identification in 1991 by DNR Wildlife Resources Division fisheries biologists sampling below Lake Sinclair, this species had not been collected for more than 100 years. Listed as endangered in Georgia, intensive efforts to recover this species in Georgia and the Carolinas have been undertaken since the early 1990s by a team of state, federal and industry biologists organized under the Robust Redhorse Conservation Committee.

A major component of the effort has been the capture and spawning of wild fish from the Oconee and Savannah rivers and production of young in hatcheries for restoration of stocks in rivers within the former range. In partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Georgia Power and the University of Georgia, the Wildlife Resources Division helped develop a hatchery program in 1993. About 115,000 hatchery-reared robust redhorse have been stocked into the Broad, Ocmulgee, Oconee and Ogeechee rivers in Georgia. South Carolina DNR has stocked 54,000 fingerlings in the Broad and Wateree rivers.

Biologists documented healthy growth and survival rates in all stocked rivers in Georgia and South Carolina, and observed spawning behavior in fish stocked in the Ocmulgee and Broad Rivers. Researchers are trying to document survival of wild-spawned fish in stocked populations and their recruitment into the juvenile and adult population. Establishment of additional self-sustaining populations will represent a major step toward recovery.

Other recent recovery activities include a major gravel augmentation project on the Oconee River and radio telemetry studies on the Ogeechee and Broad Rivers. The gravel augmentation is aimed at improving the abundance and quality of spawning habitat. The telemetry studies are tracking the movement of adult fish in hopes of identifying unknown spawning areas.

 




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