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First Record of Ameiurus catus (Siluriformes: Ictaluridae) from the Conecuh River, Alabama
Steven J. Rider and Travis R. Powell

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 17, Issue 3 (2018): N44–N50

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2018 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 17, No. 3 N44 S.J. Rider and T.R. Powell First Record of Ameiurus catus (Siluriformes: Ictaluridae) from the Conecuh River, Alabama Steven J. Rider1,* and Travis R. Powell2 Abstract - We report on the first record of Ameiurus catus (White Catfish) from the Conecuh River, Covington County, AL, and the species-range extension into the Conecuh-Escambia river of Alabama– Florida. This record extends the known geographical range of this species 240 km northeast from the mouth of the Escambia River, FL. Moreover, this record represents the most northern and first record in nearly 36 years from the Conecuh-Escambia river of Alabama–Florida. North America is home to 44 species of catfishes from the family Ictaluridae consisting of 6 genera: Noturus (30 spp.), Ameiurus (7), Ictalurus (4), Pylodictis (1), Satan (1), and Trogloglanis (1) (Page and Burr 2011). Species of the genera Ameiurus (bullhead catfishes) are native to the Atlantic and Gulf-slope drainages of North America and 6 of the 7 species are native to Alabama (Boschung and Mayden 2004, Mettee et al. 1996, Page and Burr 2011). Three species of bullhead catfishes: Ameiurus melas Rafinesque (Black Bullhead), A. natalis Lesueur (Yellow Bullhead), and A. nebulosus Lesueur (Brown Bullhead) are widely distributed throughout Alabama (Boschung and Mayden 2004, Mettee et al. 1996). Ameiurus serracanthus (Yerger & Relyea) (Spotted Bullhead) is found in the Chattahoochee (Boshchung and Mayden 2004, Page and Burr 2011) and Choctawhatchee river drainages (Cailteux and Dobbins 2005; Mettee et al. 1996; S. Rider, Alabama Department of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries [ADWFF], unpubl. data and reports), and Ameiurus brunneus Jordan (Snail Bullhead) is restricted solely to the Chattahoochee River drainage (Boshchung and Mayden 2004, Mettee et al. 1996). Ameiurus catus L. (White Catfish) is considered native to the Chattahoochee River drainage due to its distribution and abundance (AUM 2016, Mettee et al. 1996, Smith-Vaniz 1968, UF 2016). Lee et al. (1980) and Page and Burr (2011) indicated that White Catfish was native to the Choctawhatchee and Conecuh river drainages, and the Mobile Basin of Alabama. However, only a few records exist for the Choctawhatchee River drainage (Cailteux and Dobbins 2005, Mettee et al. 1996) and Mobile Basin (Mettee et al. 1996), and no records exist for the Conecuh River drainage (AUM 2016, UAIC 2016). These records have, in the past, been presumed to be introduced fish from farm-pond stockings (AUM 2016, Mettee et al. 1996, Smith-Vaniz 1968, UAIC 2016). The Conecuh River originates in Union Springs, Bullock County, AL, and flows 391 km in a southwesterly direction to the Alabama–Florida state line. The river’s name changes to the Escambia River at the state line, where it continues to flow in a southerly direction for 97 km until it enters Escambia Bay, an arm of Pensacola Bay, FL. There are only 2 reservoirs on this river system—Gantt and Point A reservoirs, located north of Andalusia, Covington County, AL. Five specimens of White Catfish have been collected in the tidal waters at the Escambia River mouth at Escambia Bay: 4 in 1953 and 1 in 1977 (Bailey et al. 1954; J. Knight, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Holt, FL, pers. comm.). 1Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, River and Stream Fisheries Program, 1507 Karley Drive, Opelika, AL 36801. 2Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, River and Stream Fisheries Program, 3608 Fairground Road, Montgomery, AL 36110. *Corresponding author - Steve.Rider@dcnr.alabama.gov. Manuscript Editor: Andrew Rypel Notes of the Southeastern Naturalist, Issue 17/3, 2018 N45 2018 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 17, No. 3 S.J. Rider and T.R. Powell Nevertheless, no records exist in the Escambia River (AUM 2016, UAIC 2016, UF 2016, UMMZ 2016, USNM 2016). On 25 July 2012, we conducted a fish survey on Gantt Reservoir using a boom-mounted electrofishing boat with pulsed-direct current (DC; 120 pulses per second with 4–6 amps of output) maintained with a Smith-Root 2.5 generator-powered pulsator (Smith-Root, Vancouver, WA). Gantt Reservoir is a 1112-ha reservoir located on the Conecuh River in Covington County, AL. We placed all fish collected in an aerated livewell for enumeration and identification. We tentatively identified in the field 1 specimen collected along the northern shoreline of Gantt Reservoir (31°27'01.04''N, 86°26'42.88''W) as White Catfish due to the rounded anal fin, white ventral barbels, and moderately forked caudal fin (Fig. 1). The specimen was collected at a depth of 1 m over sand/gravel substrate. Due to the rarity of this species in Alabama, we fixed the specimen in 10% formalin for species verification. In the lab, we preserved the specimen in 70% ethyl alcohol. Identification was based on the following diagnostic characters that differentiate White Catfish from other icaturids found in the Conecuh River: a moderately forked caudal fin with rounded edges; short and rounded anal fin; 22 anal-fin rays; white ventral barbels; and adipose fin not fused to caudal fin (Table 1; Mettee et al. 1996, Page and Burr 2011, Smith-Vaniz 1968). The specimen measured 42 mm and 54 mm in standard and total lengths, respectively . This specimen represents the first White Catfish collected in the Conecuh River drainage of Alabama and represents the most northerly record for this species in the Conecuh–Escambia River drainage (Fig. 2). The map includes White Catfish vouchered and additional collection records for Alabama and Northwest Florida, and Table 2 includes corresponding vouchered data. The size of this specimen indicates it was a young-of-the-year (YOY) and that successful reproduction had occurred (Simon and Wallus 2003). However, the Figure 1. Photograph of the White Catfish specimen collected 25 July 2012, Gantt Reservoir, Conecuh River, AL. 2018 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 17, No. 3 N46 S.J. Rider and T.R. Powell Table 1. Select morphometric characters used to differentiate White Catfish from other Ictaluridae found in the Conecuh River, Alabama. Anal fin-ray Ventral barbel count coloration Anal fin shape Caudal fin shape Specimen 22 White Rounded edge Moderately forked White Catfish 22–24 White Rounded edge Moderately forked Blue Catfish 30–36 White Straight edge Deeply forked Channel Catfish 24–29 Gray Rounded edge Deeply forked Yellow Bullhead 24–27 White or yellow Rounded edge Rounded Black Bullhead 19–23 Black to dark gray Rounded edge Rounded Brown Bullhead 20–24 Black to dark gray Rounded edge Rounded Figure 2. Collection location for the White Catfish specimen collected 25 July 2012, Gantt Reservoir, Conecuh River, AL. Additional collection locations for vouchered specimens and collection records in Alabama and Northwest Florida are presented. N47 2018 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 17, No. 3 S.J. Rider and T.R. Powell Table 2. Collection data for vouchered White Catfish specimens collected in Alabama and Northwest Florida. AUM = Auburn University Museum of Natural History, ANSP = Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, INHS = Illinois Natural History Survey, TU = Tulane University Fish Collection, UAIC = University of Alabama Ichthyological Collection, UF = University of Florida Museum of Natural History, and UMMZ = University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. [Table continued on following page.] Institution Catalog Decimal Decimal code number State County Locality Drainage latitude longitude Collection date INHS 51890 AL Barbour Middle Fork Cowikee Creek Chattahoochee River - - 26 May 1999 UAIC 1490.05 AL Tallapoosa Elkahatchee Creek Tallapoosa River 32.871 -85.918 17 October 1964 AUM 268 AL Russell Lake Eufaula Chattahoochee River 32.140 -85.060 13 July 1967 AUM 1427 AL Henry Lake Eufaula Chattahoochee River 31.623 -85.064 28 October 1967 AUM 2325 AL Lee Wacoochee Creek Chattahoochee River 32.634 -85.094 24 October 1969 AUM 12679 AL Lee Halawakee Creek Chattahoochee River 32.696 -85.213 19 May 1975 AUM 13096 AL Lee Halawakee Creek Chattahoochee River 32.678 -85.159 24 June 1976 AUM 15698 AL Clay Enitachopco Creek Tallapoosa River 33.207 -85.848 18 February 1978 AUM 17224 AL Lee Lake Harding Chattahoochee River 32.689 -85.118 29 August 1977 AUM 20414 AL Lee Saugahatchee Creek Tallapoosa River 32.625 -85.587 5 October 1979 AUM 20900 AL Lee Saugahatchee Creek Tallapoosa River 32.626 -85.587 2 October 1980 AUM 39530 AL Lee Saugahatchee Creek Tallapoosa River 32.648 -85.483 2001 AUM 40243 AL Henry Lake Eufaula Chattahoochee River 31.623 -85.061 5 April 1972 TU 35297 AL Clarke Bassett Creek Tombigbee River 31.594 -87.726 2 July 1964 ANSP 73011 FL Escambia Escambia Bay Escambia River ? ? 29 March 1953 ANSP 73046 FL Santa Rosa White River Escambia River ? ? 1 April 1953 UMMZ 165172 FL Santa Rosa White River Escambia River ? ? 1 April 1953 UMMZ 186259 FL Calhoun Apalachicola River Apalachicola River ? ? 9 May 1966 TU 170785 FL Gadsden Apalachicola River Apalachicola River 30.707 -84.861 24 October 1989 TU 22908 FL Bay Econfina Creek Econfina Creek 30.321 -85.576 25 March 1960 TU 23340 FL Gadsden Apalachicola River Apalachicola River 30.707 -84.862 6 July 1960 TU 21149 FL Walton Choctawhatchee River Choctawhatchee River 30.400 -86.116 30 July 1959 TU 25708 FL Santa Rosa Yellow River Yellow River 30.560 -86.958 14 September 1961 TU 22729 FL Walton Choctawhatchee River Choctawhatchee River 30.410 -86.083 27 October 1959 2018 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 17, No. 3 N48 S.J. Rider and T.R. Powell Table 2, continued. Institution Catalog Decimal Decimal code number State County Locality Drainage latitude longitude Collection date TU 22749 FL Walton Choctawhatchee River Choctawhatchee River 30.389 -86.044 27 October 1959 TU 22539 FL Gadsden Apalachicola River Apalachicola River 30.707 -84.862 6 November 1959 TU 25718 FL Gadsden Apalachicola River Apalachicola River 30.708 -84.864 24 February 1962 TU 29875 FL Gadsden Apalachicola River Apalachicola River 30.708 -84.864 24 March 1962 TU 32114 FL Liberty Apalachicola River Apalachicola River 30.156 -85.134 12 June 1963 TU 32212 FL Gadsden Flat Creek Apalachicola River 30.628 -84.835 14 June 1963 TU 34834 FL Franklin Apalachicola River Apalachicola River 29.755 -85.015 16 June 1964 TU 34856 FL Gulf Chipola River Chipola River 30.126 -85.167 16 June 1964 TU 41300 FL Calhoun Dead Lake Apalachicola River 30.259 -85.166 13 June 1966 TU 94812 FL Escambia Elevenmile Creek Perdido River 30.474 -87.358 12 July 1975 TU 103011 FL Escambia Elevenmile Creek Perdido River 30.474 -87.358 19 July 1977 TU 108580 FL Escambia Elevenmile Creek Perdido River 30.474 -87.358 26 July 1978 TU 122181 FL Escambia Elevenmile Creek Perdido River 30.574 -87.322 13 July 1981 TU 136037 FL Escambia Elevenmile Creek Perdido River 30.498 -87.336 10 July 1984 TU 91266 FL Santa Rosa Yellow River Yellow River 30.560 -86.958 16 November 1961 TU 92642 FL Santa Rosa Yellow River Yellow River 30.558 -86.978 16 August 1961 UF 55186 FL Jackson Apalachicola River Apalachicola River 30.704 -84.863 8 July 1959 UF 56409 FL Gadsden Apalachicola River Apalachicola River 30.706 -84.859 15 July 1959 UF 57675 FL Santa Rosa Yellow River Yellow River 30.553 -86.993 21 June 1961 UF 58034 FL Santa Rosa Yellow River Yellow River 30.573 -86.924 13 July 1962 UF 58381 FL Gadsden Apalachicola River Apalachicola River 30.703 -84.859 25 July 1962 UF 60991 FL Liberty Apalachicola River Apalachicola River 30.440 -84.985 28 June 1964 UF 60992 FL Liberty Apalachicola River Apalachicola River 30.440 -84.985 28 June 1964 UF 92284 FL Escambia Elevenmile Creek Perdido River 30.574 -87.321 14 July 1992 UF 143359 FL Gulf Lake Wimico Apalachicola River 29.799 -85.131 16 June 1955 N49 2018 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 17, No. 3 S.J. Rider and T.R. Powell collection of this YOY specimen suggests the species may be established or become established in the Conecuh River of Alabama. White Catfish were stocked in the 1960s and 1970s in farm ponds throughout Alabama (Prather 1965, Smith-Vaniz 1968); however, we are unaware of any stockings in the last 30 years (ADWFF fish-stocking database). White Catfish hybrids have been produced at Auburn University (AU) for experimental aquaculture studies; however, no hybrid specimens have been collected or vouchered in Alabama and no stockings were approved outside of AU experimental ponds (Brooks et al. 1982a, b; Dunham and Smitherman 1981; N. Nichols, ADWFF, Montgomery, AL, pers. comm.; Smitherman 1983). Until now, routine sampling of reservoirs conducted by fisheries biologists with the ADWFF using boom-mounted electrofishing boats with pulse DC (120 pulses per second with 4–6 amps of output) within the defined native range of White Catfish in Alabama had never produced any records. Although Ictalurus punctatus (Rafinesque) (Channel Catfish), Pylodictus olivaris (Rafinesque) (Flathead Catfish), Yellow Bullhead, and Brown Bullhead are occasionally caught (Andress et al. 2010; Armstrong et al. 2006; Ricks et al. 2006a, b; Rider et al. 2002a, b), this type of electrofishing method is not as efficient for collecting catfishes as low-pulse DC electrofishing (Cailteux and Dobbins 2005, Holley et al. 2009, Marshall et al. 2009, Sakaris et al. 2017). The lack of White Catfish specimens may be indicative of one or more of several scenarios: (1) that most of Alabama (except the Chattahoochee River drainage) is not part of the White Catfish native range,( 2) low abundance, and (3) no data or information due to lack of targeted-sampling effort using preferred collection methods; such as hoop nets, otter trawls or low-pulse DC electrofishing (Jordan et al. 2004, Sakaris et al. 2017, Schwartz and Jachowski 1965). The origin of this specimen is uncertain. Targeted sampling efforts are warranted to determine the current distribution, abundance, and ecology of White Catfish in Alabama. We deposited this specimen in the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Aquatic Collection. Acknowledgments. We thank Carol Johnston for assisting with species verification and Ashley Peters for help creating the map. Funding was provided by the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. Literature Cited Andress, R., K.C. Weathers, and R. McCarter. 2010. Eufaula Reservoir management report. Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, Andalusia, AL. 25 pp. Armstrong, D.L., Jr., J. Zolczynski, K. Brown, C.M. Young, and B.R. Rick Jr. 2006. Claiborne Reservoir management report. Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, Spanish Fort, AL. 23 pp. Auburn University Natural History Museum (AUM). 2016. Fish collection database. Available online at http://aumnh.org/research-collections/fishes. Accessed 9 July 2016. Bailey, R.M., H.E. Winn, and C.L. Smith. 1954. Fishes from the Escambia River, Alabama and Florida, with ecologic and taxonomic notes. Proceedings of the Academy of natural Sciences of Philadelphia. 106:109–164. Boschung, H.T., and R.L. Mayden. 2004. Fishes of Alabama. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. 736 pp. Brooks, M.J., R.O. Smitherman, J.A. Chappell, J.C. Williams, and R.A. Dunham. 1982a. Length variation in species and hybrid population of Blue, Channel, and White Catfishes. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies 36:190–195. Brooks, M.J., R.O. Smitherman, J.A. Chappell, R.A. Dunham. 1982b. Sex–weight relations in Blue, Channel, and White Catfishes: Implications for brood-stock selection. The Progressive Fish- Culturist 44:105–107. 2018 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 17, No. 3 N50 S.J. Rider and T.R. Powell Cailteux, R.L., and D.A. Dobbins. 2005. Population status and distribution of Spotted Bullhead, Ameiurus serracanthus, in North Florida rivers. Florida Scientist 68:122–129. Dunham, R.A., and R.O. Smitherman. 1981. Growth in response to winter feeding of Blue, Channel, and White Catfishes . The Progressive Fish-Culturist 43:63–66. Holley, M.P., M.D. Marshall, and M.J. Maceina. 2009. Fishery and population characteristics of Blue Catfish and Channel Catfish and potential impacts of minimum length limits on the fishery in Lake Wilson, Alabama. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 29:1183–1194. Jordan, S.M., R. Neumann, and E.T. Schultz. 2004. Distribution, habitat use, growth, and condition of a native and an introduced catfish species in the Hudson River estuary. Journal of Freshwater Ecology 19 59–67. Lee, D.S., C.R. Gilbert, C.H. Hocutt, R.E. Jenkins, D.E. McAllister, and J.R. Stauffer Jr. 1980. Atlas of North American Freshwater Fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, NC. 867 pp. Marshall, M.D., M.P. Holley, and M.J. Maceina. 2009. Assessment of the Flathead Catfish population in a lightly exploited fishery in Lake Wilson, Alabama. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 29: 869–875. Mettee, M.F., P.E. O’Neil, and J.M. Pierson. 1996. Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin. Oxmoor House, Inc., Birmingham, AL. 820 pp. Page, L.M., and B.M. Burr. 2011. Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of North America North of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, New York, NY. 663 pp. Prather, E.E. 1965. Experiments with White Catfish as a sport fish. Zoology–Entomology Department Series, Fisheries No. 2, Auburn University Agricultural Experiment Station, Auburn, AL. 9pp. Ricks, B.R., Jr., D.L. Armstrong, Jr., and K.B. Bryars. 2006a. Coffeeville Reservoir management report. Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, Spanish Fort, AL. 23 pp. Ricks, B.R., Jr., D.L. Armstrong Jr., and K.B. Bryars. 2006b. Millers Ferry Reservoir management report. Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, Spanish Fort, AL. 23 pp. Rider, S.J., J.J. McHugh, and T.R. Powell. 2002a. West Point Reservoir management report. Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, Montgomery, AL. 20 pp. Rider, S.J., J.J. McHugh, and T.R. Powell. 2002b. Jones Bluff Reservoir management report. Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, Montgomery, AL. 20 pp. Sakaris, P.C., T.F. Bonvechio, and B.R. Bowen. 2017. Relative abundance, growth, and mortality of the White Catfish, Ameiurus catus L., in the St. Marys River. Southeastern Naturalist 16:331–342. Schwartz, F.J. and R. Jachowski. 1965. The age, growth, and length–weight relationship of the Patuxent River, Maryland ictalurid White Catfish, Ictalurus catus. Chesapeake Science 6:226–229. Simon, T.P., and R. Wallus. 2003. Reproductive Biology and Early Life-history of Fishes in the Ohio River Drainage: Ictaluridae—Catfish to Madtoms, Volume 3. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. 204 pp. Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1968. Freshwater Fishes of Alabama. Auburn University Agricultural Experiment Station Auburn, AL. 211 pp. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (USNM). 2016. Ichthyology collection. Available online at http://collections.nmnh.si.edu/search/fishes. Accessed 29 July 2016. Smitherman, R.O. 1983. Review of catfish breeding research 1969–1981 at Auburn University. Aquaculture 33:197–205. University of Alabama Ichthyological Collection (UAIC). 2016. Ichthyology collection. Available online at http://specifyweb.as.ua.edu/ichthyology. Accessed 29 July 2016. University of Florida Museum of Natural History (UF). 2016. Ichthyology collection. Available online at http://specifyportal.flmnh.ufl.edu/fishes. Accessed 30 July 2016. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology (UMMZ). 2016. Catalogue of the fish division. Available online at https://lsa.umich.edu/ummz/fishes/collections. Accessed 29 July 2016.