Ozark Fishing Facts

Posted by Al Agnew on December 25th, 2014
Print Friendly and PDF
Recommend this page:

al agnewI have a streak of curiosity that often leads me to get interested in things that perhaps not all that many people care about, and when you combine that with my passion for rivers and the Ozarks, it sometimes leads to me spending time learning lots of little facts for no other reason than because I’m interested. So I’ve decided to post some of these facts from time to time, facts on various Ozark fish species that probably aren’t too well known. It probably won’t help your fishing, but you might find them of passing interest.

According to my research, there are 144 species of fish native to the Ozarks. This includes species that are native to typical Ozark stream habitat, not species that are lowland or big river fish that make it up into the lower sections of the largest Ozark streams. There are a bunch of species, for instance, that are native to the Southeast Missouri lowlands but occasionally come up the Castor, Whitewater, St. Francis, and Black into the Ozark sections of these streams. The bowfin is a good example.

There are also 16 introduced species. We all know about striped bass, the various trout, and muskie, along with the carp. There is one sunfish species that has been introduced, and redeye bass, the bass species that is native to a few streams in Alabama and Georgia, was once introduced into the Spring River below Mammoth Spring, but apparently died out.

There are 40 native minnow species, 16 suckers, 13 catfish (a bunch of them are madtoms), 15 sunfish species (including the black bass), 30 species in the perch family (it includes walleye, sauger, and the rest are darters). There are 5 species of lampreys.

Nineteen species are native ONLY to the Ozarks, and of those, several are native only to one or two river systems, including the redspot chub and Neosho madtom of the Neosho-Elk-Spring river system, the bluestriped darter of the Osage and Gasconade system, the Niangua Darter of the Osage system, the yoke darter of the upper White River system, and the yellow-cheeked darter of the Little Red system. Also, the Ozark bass, one of the three goggle-eye species of the Ozarks, is native only to the White River system.

Because the Ozarks is somewhat of an island of clear water streams surrounded by slower, murkier water, that explains the number of species native only to the Ozarks. In addition, five more species are native only to the Ozarks and Ouachitas to the south (and there are 11 species that are native only to the Ouachitas). However, some species are found both in the Ozarks and in one of the two nearest other regions that have clear water streams. Two species are found only in the Ozarks and the upper Mississippi River system of Minnesota and Wisconsin, while seven species are found only in the Ozarks and the mountains of Tennessee and Kentucky.

And then there are a few oddball species. A couple are found only in the Arkansas river system, but are found way out in western Kansas and Oklahoma in habitat completely different from their Ozark streams like the Mulberry. One is found up in the Great Lakes, and nowhere else except one part of the Ozarks, the northern brook lamprey. One, the Sabine shiner, is found in south Texas and the Ozarks.

At various times, I’ve probably had more than 50 of these species in my aquarium. The many minnow species are the easiest to keep, along with the madtoms and other catfish. Both types will eat about anything and are very hardy. The darters are often beautifully colored, but most prefer live food, small aquatic bugs, and are difficult to train to eat aquarium fish food. The sunfish tend to eat each other. I’ve never had any luck keeping suckers, including young redhorse and hogsuckers, alive for very long, and the sculpins also like live food too well.

Print Friendly and PDF
Recommend this page: