Classification: Federally Threatened, State Threatened
The spotfin chub is an imperiled fish, endemic (found nowhere else in the world) to the Tennessee River Basin in the Southeastern US. It once occurred throughout the Tennessee Valley but now only remains in four river systems, one of those in western North Carolina.
The spotfin chub is a small minnow, reaching a maximum size of 5 inches in length. During the spawning season, males turn a brilliant turquoise-royal blue; while, juveniles and females remain olive along the back, silvery on the sides, and white along the belly. Scales are small and indistinct. All individuals have a distinctive black spot in the caudal region. The spot near the posterior margin of the dorsal fin is usually indistinct.
Distribution by County: Macon Co. (Little Tennessee River), Swain Co. (Little Tennessee River). NOTE: All headwater areas that flow into these occupied habitats should receive special management.
The spotfin chub prefers moderate to large streams with a good current. These streams typically have clear water, and cool to warm temperatures. The fish generally occupies areas with swift current with a variety of substrates although rarely over silt. During the spawning season adults tend to occupy bedrock and boulder substrates in faster currents; however, juveniles are typically observed over much smaller substrates and in much slower currents.
Spotfin chubs are believed to live up to 4 years in the wild. The fish prefers to eat small benthic macro-invertebrates consisting of midge, blackfly, and caddisfly larvae. The fish spawns in the spring and summer, primarily from May to August. This species is considered a crevice-spawner; it has been observed spawning on bedrock and beneath loose rocks over bedrock.
Protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. No spotfin chubs can be collected or killed without a permit from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and the US Fish & Wildlife Service.
A monitoring plan to assess the status of the spotfin chub population in the Little Tennessee River was implemented in August 2007. Ten sites are surveyed within the 23 mile (37 km) reach from Franklin Dam to Fontana Reservoir. The goals of the project are to: 1) assess distribution and abundance of spotfin chub in the mainstem Little Tennessee River over a 10-year period; 2) provide information to guide management decisions, recovery efforts, and further research; and 3) provide any additional life history and habitat use information as observed.
In cooperation with US Fish and Wildlife Service and Conservation Fisheries Inc. (CFI) spotfin chubs are being reintroduced in the Cheoah River in Graham County. CFI propagates spotfin chub in Knoxville, Tennessee; the fish are then transferred to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission where they are grown out to a releasable size at the Marion Fish Hatchery.