Watch for crossing fish

You’ve heard of deer crossings? Well, fish need crossings too, the Little Tennessee Watershed Association announced recently after the Franklin-based conservation group and some partners studied the group’s river namesake from the North Carolina state line to Lake Emory in Macon County.

A fish-passage assessment for small streams draining into the Little Tennessee River was recently completed, identifying areas where fish might be “cut off” from good habitat in sections of some of these tributary streams. Improper placement of culverts often creates habitat that is difficult, if not impossible, for a fish to swim through. This is a problem because it limits the range of habitat that a fish can occupy.

To understand the study, you must first understand this: just as different types of fish have specific behaviors, each species are also shaped differently and have various swimming abilities.

For the fish-passage project, culvert assessments were based on three groups of fish:

• The strong-bodied swimmers, such as adult trout.

• The medium-skilled swimmers, such as young trout and shiners.

• The darters, which cannot jump well and have the most difficulty swimming against strong currents.  

The Little Tennessee Watershed Association, with help from government agencies when needed, inspected about 160 stream crossings. The crossing will be evaluated now for all three groups of fish. This project was designed as a follow up to previous cooperative barrier assessment efforts begun in 2007. The information from this project will influence future restoration projects in the Little Tennessee River watershed.

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