Tangerine Darter

Illustration: USFWS
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Scientific Name: Percina aurantiaca

Classification: Nongame Fish

Abundance: Common

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Species profile (pdf)


Tangerine Darter (Photo: NCWRC)

Tangerine Darter (Photo: TR Russ/NCWRC)

Tangerine Darter male (front) and female comparison (Photo: Luke Etchison/NCWRC)

Additional Information

The tangerine darter, also called the “river slick,” belongs to the family Percidae, which includes some larger and contrasting species: yellow perch, sauger and walleye. This aptly named darter often displays a bright-orange color along its lower mid-side and belly, particularly adult males. The scientific name likewise reflects this darter’s brilliant orange color as well as its taxonomic grouping—aurantiaca means “orange-colored” and Percina means “small perch.”

The tangerine darter reaches a maximum length of about 7 in. When compared to other darters, it is rather large and stout-bodied. And like many other darters, it is very colorful. The adult males are characterized by an orangish-red to tangerine color along their lower mid-sides and bellies, whereas females are typically yellow in color and juveniles are white in these areas. All specimens have 8 to 12 fused blotches along their mid-side that usually form a continuous, broad black stripe from head to tail. Above this stripe lies a row of small black dots that is unique to the species. The background for these dots is a dusky-yellow or olive color. The first dorsal fin of adult males is dusky and edged with orange, while females exhibit a yellow dorsal fin. The ventral fins for both sexes are dusky to black with breeding males exhibiting some iridescent blue. The Tangerine Darter lacks the black teardrop bar under the eye that is typical of most members of the genus Percina. Like most members of the genus, the Tangerine Darter has a frenum—a fleshy connection between the snout and upper lip. It also has some degree of enlarged scaling near its pelvic fins.

Learn more by reading the Tangerine Darter Species Profile.


None. The tangerine darter is not actively fished for by anglers and is classified as a nongame species.

Status of the tangerine darter in North Carolina is tracked as part of routine regional monitoring surveys by NCWRC staff and partners. This species was also reintroduced to part of its native range during the Pigeon River Reintroduction Project, of which the NCWRC has been a partner.

Pigeon River Revival (PDF)