Restoration of the Spotfin Chub, a Federal and State Threatened Species

Spotfin Chub, Cyprinella monacha (=Erimonax monachus), is a federally Threatened species that has declined across its historical range primarily due to habitat degradation. It is a crevice spawner that requires clean and clear waterways with an abundance of bedrock. Spotfin Chub habitat is hard to come by in areas with high rates of sedimentation.

Cyprinella monacha
Spotfin Chub – Cyprinella monacha.

In 2005, minimum flows were established on the Cheoah River in southwestern North Carolina, which enabled the subsequent recovery of several state- and federally-listed species, including Spotfin Chub. The Cheoah River is protected and surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest and has an abundance of bedrock substrate making it an ideal place to reintroduce Spotfin Chub. Reintroduction efforts began in July 2009 when Conservation Fisheries, Inc. (CFI, Knoxville, TN) released hatchery-propagated juveniles from Little Tennessee River brood stock.  Stockings began at the upstream end of the ~nine mile reach between Santeetlah Dam and Calderwood Reservoir, with subsequent releases in the lower reach beginning in 2015.

Cyprinella monacha
Feeding Spotfin Chub in the Cheoah River

Since 2015, CFI and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) have stocked more than 4,800 Spotfin Chub in the Cheoah River. Conservative population models of the Cheoah River population estimate over 9,000 adult Spotfin Chub in the river (Doll et al. 2020). The Cheoah River now supports the most successful reintroduction of a restored population of the federal and state Threatened Spotfin Chub.

Due to this success, NCWRC and CFI have transitioned their stocking strategy to focus on increasing genetic diversity using fewer animals. In the future, NCWRC and CFI plan on reintroducing Spotfin Chubs to more streams in western North Carolina to expand their recovery efforts for this species.

Cyprinella monacha
Spawning pair of Spotfin Chub in the Cheoah River.

Doll, J.C., L. Etchison, and D. Owensby. 2020. Population estimate of the state and federally threatened Spotfin Chub using underwater observations. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 40(2):342-353.

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