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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Distribution and Dispersal of Fishes
in the Red River Basin


The primary objective of this survey was to provide an accounting of all records of fish species collected from the Red River of the North (Red River) in the United States that have been reported in the published literature. From these records we were able to determine fish distribution records in the Red River and in 26 major tributaries in the Red River basin. Even with a long history of surveys to document fish species occurrence in the Red River basin, there has not been a detailed treatment of fish distributions in streams in the basin. Details of collection sites and dates of collection of fishes in the Red River basin have not been presented in past reports, and will be useful for assessing any changes in fish distributions, and for clarifying questions about past records. Further, there is disagreement on the number of fish species in the Red River basin. Crossman and McAllister (1986) listed 75 fish species for the Red River drainage (portions in Canada and the United States); 69 species were listed for the Red River in the United States. Underhill (1989) listed 80 species for the Red River drainage in the United States. The data presented in this report will provide the basis to permit various statistical analyses to ascertain environmental variables that are important in influencing fish community assemblages in streams of the Red River drainage. These analyses will be included in the Ph.D. thesis of Todd Koel, graduate student in the Zoology Department, NDSU.

A second objective of this project was to determine the current status of the gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) in the James River and of the white bass (Morone chrysops) in the Sheyenne River in North Dakota. We collected fishes in 1993 in two locations in the James River (Ludden and Lamoure) where Gene VanEeckhout collected the gizzard shad in 1988 (Duerre 1989), and in the Sheyenne River in 1993 and 1994 from locations near Valley City to its mouth.

We found no gizzard shad or white bass in these samples, and have relied on sampling conducted by other investigators to document the occurrence of these two species. Results of the field sampling, as well as data collected by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department are presented in Appendix A. To summarize the data available: There have been no records of the gizzard shad in the James River since a few adults and young-of-the-year were collected near Lamoure in 1988 by Gene VanEeckhout (Duerre 1989, and Power 1995). White bass continue to be reported in the Sheyenne River and the Red River, but they apparently have been unable to establish large populations in the Red River basin since they were first reported in the Sheyenne River in 1964 from white bass introduced into Lake Ashtabula in 1953. The well established population of white bass in Lake Ashtabula reservoir on the Sheyenne River serves as a source for white bass recorded in the Sheyenne River and adjacent reaches of the Red River.

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