Classification: Federal Candidate for Listing, State Threatened
First discovered in 1992, the Sicklefin Redhorse is a medium-sized sucker, with a curved dorsal fin and a bright red tail. It is found primarily in the Hiwassee and Little Tennessee Rivers in Cherokee, Clay, Swain, Macon, and Jackson counties. The species has not yet been officially described and is relatively rare throughout its known range. The population is limited by the presence of dams and impoundments in the rivers and faces threats in the form of habitat loss and pollutants such as sediment.
Its body is olive colored with a coppery sheen. Its dorsal fin is sharply curved; its other fins are primarily dusky with a pale edge and its tail fin is mostly red. Fish can grow up to 26 inches in length and live up to 20 years.
It is primarily found in the Hiwassee and Little Tennessee Rivers. It also migrates up smaller streams such as the Valley River, Brasstown Creek, Tuckasegee River, and the Oconaluftee River. Populations are confined by the presence of dams and impoundments. In 2007, captive raised juveniles were released into the Tuckasegee and Oconaluftee Rivers in partnership with the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Conservation Fisheries Incorporated, and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.
In streams, Sicklefin Redhorse prefer moderate to fast currents and flowing pools. It has also adapted to using reservoirs in at least part of its early life stages.
Spawning activity occurs over cobble substrate in fast flowing water during the late winter/early spring when water temperatures approach 10.0-12.0 degrees (º) Celsius. The Sicklefin Redhorse appears to return to the same stream reach each year to spawn. It feeds on benthic macroinvertebrates and it shows a preference to forage on coarse substrates covered with river weed.
Protected under the state Endangered Species Act. No Sicklefin Redhorse can be collected or killed without a permit from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.
Biologists are conducting ongoing research to find out more about population size, spawning migrations, habitat and food requirements, reproductive biology and early life history. This research is a cooperative effort between the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and Roanoke College, N.C. State University, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Tennessee Valley Authority, Duke Energy, and Conservation Fisheries Incorporated. Biologists are using results from the research to conserve and enhance habitat and explore expansion of populations in the Tuckasegee River system.