Tuesday, June 2, 2015

2015 NANFA convention part 4 - Arkansas endemics

We started our fourth day deep in Arkansas, the state with winding roads, non-existent shoulders, and logging trucks driving 75 around every sharp bend.  Our first spot was still in the Ouachita drainage, and we hoped to catch better examples of Creole darters.  My first catch was a bigeye shiner, and I decided on a top view photo, which is always a good idea with fish in the Notropis genus.

Bigeye Shiner (Notropis boops)

In the riffles we found Creole darters as well as some very colorful redspot darters.  I'm really happy I have good photos of these two species!

Creole Darter (Etheostoma collettei)

Redspot Darter (Etheostoma artesiae)

We decided we were wasting our time trying to catch greenside darters and a couple of small redhorse, so we packed up and headed west to the Caddo drainage.  Drainage hopping is the secret to catching new lifers!  The upper Caddo River was one of the most scenic spots we fished.  It was loaded with orangebelly darters, a species that is very common in it's range.

Orangebelly Darter (Etheostoma radiosum) - new hook & line species #280

The orangebelly darters were out in the open, both in the pools and in the riffles.  When I fished around some larger rocks away from the main channel, I caught the other species of darter that lives in the creek, the paleback darter.

Paleback Darter (Etheostoma pallididorsum) - new hook & line species #281

It would be easy to miss the paleback darters, so if you ever go looking for them, this is their preferred habitat!

We also found a nest with spawning striped shiners.  They were in a depression in the sand rather than the usual chub mound.  I think someone said stonerollers carve out these depressions, but I don't remember seeing any stonerollers hanging out in this one.  I could see that the striped shiners were colorful in the water, but I didn't realize just how colorful they were until I caught one.  They were much different than the subspecies in Illinois!

Southern Striped Shiner (Luxilus chrysocephalus isolepis) - new hook & line subspecies

We couldn't find any madtoms, so we moved a ways downstream to where the Caddo River was more of a legitimate river.  Josh and Joy joined us at this spot, so with Pat, Levi, and myself we were up to five people.  Levi and I focused on madtoms, and after much looking and quite a bit of cursing at the darters that grabbed our baits, we eventually each caught one.  Another endemic madtom!

Caddo Madtom (Noturus taylori) - new hook & line species #282

Feeling pretty good about my three new lifers, I fished the upstream edge of a pool hoping for a big steelcolor shiner to get a better lifelist photo.  After a number of bigeye shiners and longear sunfish, I was able to catch a single steelcolor.  The photo turned out pretty well, but I was really hoping for a super male with a big dorsal fin and red nose.  Maybe later on the trip I would get one...

Steelcolor Shiner (Cyprinella whipplei)

We were thinking about getting dinner at a restaurant, but we changed out minds and decided to do a picnic instead.  I had brought several packages of the smoked whitefish that Josh and Joy had helped catch, and we really wanted to make a meal out of them together.  We managed to fill up a picnic table with food and drinks and had a great time before parting ways again.  Josh and Joy headed north back to the Buffalo drainage, and Pat, Levi, and I headed further west to get a motel near the Oklahoma border.

This is how excited we were to be microfishing in Arkansas!


  1. Hi Ben I am in Arkansas and so enjoying your work really nice to have pictures in hand of these species for help with field id as opposed to in tank pictures with all fins fanned out in full breading colors that show up in the id books

  2. Glad the photos are helpful!

  3. Hi Ben, I'm James and live on Greers Ferry Lake in AR. I've come across your blogs on several occasions searching for information on identifying specific species of shiners, madtoms, and more often than not the very confusingly labeled "Rainbow" darters that everyone apparently thinks covers all of them with that color pattern (5 new species in 2015, and several separate species at this point and I've still NEVER figured out which ones I've added to my 75 gallon tank..). Love your information and especially the wonderful photos, too often than not, photos are difficult to use for figuring out a species, but you do great at getting it just right and easily used, I appreciate that! I net by hand, and trap, all sorts of species in local streams such as Beachem Creek (locally known as Raymors Fjord), Weaver Creek, Little Red River, Hill Creek (locally known as Brewer or Caney), with the first two being a combination of a 4x4 vehicle, and a hike to otherwise non-accessible locations; My tank is full of ONLY aquatic plants, substrate, fossils, minerals, strange rocks that would cost thirty bucks at a pet store, darters, madtoms, shiners, chubs, longear pearch, Kentucky (spotted) bass, snails, crawdads, and who knows what else from ONLY Greers Ferry lake and its watersheds. If you guys are ever back through Central Arkansas around the Little Red in Heber Springs/Greers Ferry Lake area, I'd absolutely love to tag along or even share some great spots for some of the most beautiful "Rainbow darters" (or what have you... longer fins, blue on outside tipped in turquoise in spring fading to a VIVID red on fins in spring from only one location I've found so far).

    Once again, thanks guy! Appreciate the photos for easy identification for a guy that spends most days winter and summer out hiking/fishing!