LAKE WACCAMAW, N.C. (March 2, 2012) — Build it and they will come. At least that’s the hope of fisheries biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission after placing an experimental reef in Lake Waccamaw last summer to attract a tiny, gray catfish.
Biologists placed the reef, or “madtom hotel” as they call it, into Lake Waccamaw to help assess the population status of the broadtail madtom, a small species in the catfish family. Twenty years ago, this native fish, which measures a mere 2 ½ inches, was more common in the Columbus County lake. Today, it is difficult to find. So difficult, in fact, that the fish is state listed as a species of special concern. Broadtail madtoms are only known from a handful of locations in the Coastal Plain of North and South Carolina.
Ryan Heise, an aquatic wildlife diversity biologist with the Commission, and Chris Helms with North Carolina State Parks, hope that the madtom hotel will make it easier for them to find the fish when they start sampling the lake this spring and summer.
The small artificial reef, which is marked with a white buoy and a green Wildlife Commission diamond, is constructed of small concrete blocks, each with two crevices that Heise believes should be just the right size for the secretive fish to hide.
Broadtail madtoms are active at night, feeding on small invertebrates, but during the day, the madtom seeks cover. Heise hopes the concrete blocks will be an ideal home for the madtoms living in the lake featuring a sandy bottom and little in the way of hiding spots.
“We’ll be very excited if we can find broadtail madtoms using the artificial reef,” Heise said. “It will mean not only are there more populations than we thought, but also the habitat in the lake is still high quality enough to support them.”
The madtom hotel will attract more than just the broadtail madtom. Other species, such as the tadpole madtom, bluegill and redear sunfish also will be attracted to the structure. In addition to the broadtail madtom, Lake Waccamaw contains a variety of unique fishes that occur in the lake and nowhere else. These include the Waccamaw killifish, Waccamaw silverside and Waccamaw darter.
Research and management for the broadtail madtom in North Carolina are part of the N.C. Wildlife Action Plan, which benefits the health of fish, wildlife and people by conserving wildlife and natural places.
This project was funded through the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Fund, which is the primary source of state funds for the Wildlife Diversity Program. The Commission uses this fund, which supports non-game species research and management, to generate matching money for federal grants.
North Carolinians can support this effort, as well as other nongame species research and management projects in North Carolina, by:
• Donating through the Tax Check-off for Nongame and Endangered Wildlife on their N.C. State Income tax form;
• Registering a vehicle or trailer with a N.C. Wildlife Conservation license plate.
• Donating online at www.ncwildlife.org/give.
A high resolution version of the photo can be downloaded here
. Please credit the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.