Diversity of Fishes in Kansas Streams

When people are thinking of places that they might like to try fishing, Kansas usually isn’t anywhere near the top of that list. They might think that Kansas only has the typical sport fish that they can catch just about anywhere. While this is true, there are lots of other fish species that occur in Kansas that people never think of. A lot of these you can’t just go out with a rod and reel and catch though.

In my next few posts I would like to highlight some of the more looked over fish species that occur in the streams and rivers of Kansas and the methods used (mostly by researchers) to catch them. Some of these can be caught with rod and reel, but for this first post in this series I would like to touch on the ones that can only be caught using non-traditional methods. These are fish that are only about the size of your pinky finger.

This semester, in my Ichthyology class, I have had the opportunity to handle some of the most beautiful and interesting (weird) fish species that I have ever seen. Most of them I had only ever seen in books and thought you had to go to special places to find them. Little did I know that they occur in small streams that are similar to the ones that may run through your back yard or local park.

The most colorful fish species that we caught was the male Orangethroat Darter. This was a species that I thought only occurred in a few streams across the country and were extremely hard to find. Turns out, they were one of the most common species that we caught on our trips and we caught them in streams that are accessible to anyone.

Orangethroat Darter illustrated by Joseph Tomelleri in the book Kansas Fishes.

Orangethroat Darters show a stable population trend and are on the IUCN Red List (least concern) according to iucnredlist.org.

The next species that I have chosen to highlight is the Slender Madtom. Madtoms are a group of small catfish with a small range across the Midwest. The Slender Madtom is identified by a dark fringe around their caudal fin, as shown in the picture below.

Slender Madtom illustration by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

This species is also on the IUCN Red List (least concern) for conservation, again showing a steady population trend.

The final fish that I have chosen to highlight is the Southern Redbelly Dace. This species was the most common species that we caught during our field trip to King’s Creek on the Konza Prairie. Males have two parallel black stripes along their side and a red stripe along their belly, hence the name Redbelly.

This species is again on the Red List (least concern) for conservationwith a stable population trend.

Although I have only chosen three species to highlight in this post, there are 50 species of fish in the family Cyprinidae (the fish family of the Southern Redbelly Dace) alone in Kansas. These fish that I have chosen also just happened to be of least conservation concern with stable population trends to the IUCN, but there are plenty of fish that don’t show a stable population trend and are of some conservation concern here in Kansas such as the Topeka Shiner which is showing a decreasing population trend.

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