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River Redhorse (Moxostoma Carinatum)


Global Range

The river redhorse is found throughout the central and eastern Mississippi River system and the Gulf Slope from Florida to Louisiana. Its range extends north into the Great Lakes basin and St. Lawrence River (Figure 2). It is known from 24 states and from the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. The river redhorse has markedly declined throughout much of its range within the past century (Becker 1983; Trautman 1981). River redhorse populations appear concentrated in the centre of its distributional range, primarily in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Peripheral to this area, occurrences dramatically decrease. Trautman (1981) suggested it is likely more abundant as it is usually missed by seine hauls, and its presence is often unsuspected until revealed by accidental fish kills. Boat-electrofishing surveys have resulted in new site records in Ohio (Yoder and Beaumier 1986) and Illinois rivers (Retzer and Kowalik 2002).

Figure 2: North American Distribution of the River Redhorse (Moxostoma carinatum)

Figure 2: North American distribution of the river redhorse (Moxostoma carinatum).

Canadian Range

Several disjunct populations of river redhorse are found in southcentral Ontario and southern Quebec (Figure 3). Parker (1988) summarized the distribution of the river redhorse in the previous status report. In Ontario, prior to 1988, specimens were collected from the Mississippi, Ausable, and Ottawa rivers. In Quebec, river redhorse were reported from the Châteauguay, Richelieu, Yamaska, and Saint-François basins and in the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers. Since the previous status report, river redhorse populations have been reconfirmed at most historical locations. Several new locations have also been identified in Ontario and Quebec. As in the United States, recent boat electrofishing surveys have improved distributional information.

Figure 3: Canadian Distribution of the River Redhorse (Moxostoma carinatum)

Figure 3: Canadian distribution of the river redhorse (Moxostoma carinatum).

Abbreviations for individual waterbodies: Au: Ausable River; BQ: Bay of Quinte; Gr: Grand River; Ma: Madawaska River; Mi: Mississippi River; No: Noire River; Ot: Ottawa River; Ri: Richelieu River; Th: Thames River: Tr: Trent River; and Ya: Yamaska River.

In the Lake St. Clair drainage, two river redhorse (juvenile and adult) were collected from the lower Thames River, upstream of the Big Bend Conservation Area, in September 2003 (J. Barnucz, DFO pers. comm.). This is the first record of river redhorse in the Thames River.

In the Lake Erie watershed, river redhorse was first reported in the Grand River in 1998. Specimens were collected from the Dunnville area [ROM 70398], and from Cayuga [ROM 71654]. In 2002 and 2003, river redhorse were captured at Caledonia, Cayuga, York and Dunnville (S. Reid, unpubl. data). Archaeological excavations in northern Ohio have recovered river redhorse remains from midden and garbage pit sites (AD 750-1650), suggesting that this species has long been part of the Lake Erie basin fish community (Cavender 1989).

In the Lake Ontario watershed, river redhorse have been collected from the Bay of Quinte and the Trent River. In 1997, the first record of river redhorse in Lake Ontario was identified [ROM 71102]. Additional sampling in 1997 recovered one specimen from the Bay of Quinte area of Lake Ontario and nearshore community index netting (NSCIN) in 2001 captured two more river redhorse (Jim Hoyle, OMNR pers.comm). In 1997, river redhorse were collected for the first time in the lower Trent River, Ontario [ROM 71170]. Since 1998, river redhorse have been collected along a 50-km stretch of the Trent River from Trenton upstream to the Hagues Reach hydroelectric generating station. Suitable spawning habitat is present along the lower reaches of the Moira, Salmon, and Napanee rivers (tributaries of the Bay of Quinte); however, no spring sampling has been undertaken to evaluate its use.

Recent data suggest that river redhorse are more widely distributed in the Ottawa River watershed than previously reported (Scott and Crossman 1973; Parker 1988). Along the Ottawa River, the river redhorse is present from Sheenboro to Montebello (Chabot and Caron 1996). NSCIN of Lac des Chats (Ottawa River) in 1997 and 1998 collected 29 and 31 river redhorse, respectively (T. Haxton, pers. comm; Haxton 1999). NSCIN in Lac des Allumettes (Ottawa River) in 1997 and 1998 captured 11 and three specimens, respectively (T. Haxton, OMNR pers comm). NSCIN in 1999 captured three specimens in the Lower Allumettes (Ottawa River) (Haxton 2000a), and 13 specimens in Lac Coulonge (Ottawa River (Haxton, 2000b). One river redhorse was collected during NSCIN in the Lac du Rocher Fendu (Ottawa River) (Haxton 1998). Fall Walleye Index Netting (FWIN) performed in Holden Lake (Ottawa River) in 1998 captured 10 river redhorse. The reported captures from Holden Lake are of particular interest as this lake is situated upstream of the Rapides-des-Joachims, on the Ottawa River. It was previously presumed that no river redhorse populations were present above the rapids (Chabot and Caron 1996). Voucher specimens are required to confirm the presence of river redhorse in this stretch of the Ottawa River.

Sampling conducted from 1998 to 2002, along a 36-km stretch of the Mississippi River from downstream of Galetta to Almonte confirmed the persistence of river redhorse populations (Campbell 2001; Reid, unpubl. data). In 1992, one river redhorse specimen was collected from the Madawaska River, near Calabogie [ROM 66165]. Since this initial collection, nine were captured by OMNR in 1998 NSCIN in the locality of Arnprior downstream to the confluence with the Ottawa River. Boat-electrofishing in the fall of 2001 and 2002 resulted in the capture of seven and six river redhorse respectively (Reid, unpubl. data). Over 100 river redhorse were purportedly collected during NSCIN on Calabogie Lake in 1998. Several reports identify river redhorse in the Bonnechere River (Campbell 2001; Dextrase et al. 2003); however, although there are no barriers to migration between the Ottawa River and the First Chute on the Bonnechere River, this has not been confirmed (J. Cote, OMNR pers. comm.). OMNR fish community sampling captured two specimens in 1995, and five in 1998 from the Upper St. Lawrence River (Lake St. Francis).

Recent backpack and boat-electrofishing sampling has been unsuccessful in confirming the persistence of river redhorse in the Ausable River (N.E. Mandrak unpubl. data). Two river redhorse were collected from the Ausable River in 1936 at Ailsa Craig [ROM 1055CS and ROM 28250]. Sampling efforts in the vicinity of Ailsa Craig in August 2002 failed to capture any river redhorse. Parker (1988) suggested that the continued existence of this species in the Ausable River was in doubt due to a lack of suitable habitat. No other river redhorse populations have been reported in the Lake Huron drainage.

Several Ontario records of capture were not included in the previous status report. Voucher specimens are not available for the following river redhorse reports outside its known range. Additional sampling is required to confirm the existence of these populations. A single specimen was reported as collected from Lake Simcoe in 1978 during a Fall Trapnetting program conducted by the Lake Simcoe Fisheries Assessment Unit (OMNR). In 1989, a single river redhorse was reported as collected from Rice Lake, part of the Trent-Severn Waterway, during an Index Netting program (OMNR). Additional OMNR fish community sampling projects purportedly captured 24 river redhorse from Echo Lake in 1998 and over 100 in Christie Lake in 1993 (OMNR). In addition to these records, collections of larval river redhorse have been reported from several locations along the Lake Huron-Lake Erie corridor (Chenal Ecarte, Chematogan Channel, Whitebread Ditch, Dover Canal) (Leslie and Timmins 1991, 1998a) and from the western end of Lake Erie (Leslie and Timmins 1998b). However, substantial overlap in meristic variables among redhorse species and intraspecific variation in pigmentation (Bunt and Cooke 2004) prevent reliable larval identification (Kay et al. 1994). Therefore, larval river redhorse records are considered unconfirmed.

The first Quebec record of the river redhorse was captured in 1941, at the confluence of the Châteauguay River and Lac Saint-Louis (Quebec) by Vladykov (1941, 1942). In Quebec, it has been found in the St. Lawrence River corridor from the Les Cèdres rapid sector upstream of Lac Saint-Louis to Saint-Nicolas, near Québec City, as well as in the Châteauguay, Richelieu, Saint-François, Des Prairies, Des Mille Iles, and Yamaska rivers (Moisan 1998; Société de la faune et des parcs du Québec unpubl. data). Archaeological excavations suggest that the species was present along the St. Lawrence River at Pointe du Buisson, upstream of Lac Saint-Louis (920-940 AD; Courtemanche 2003), Laprairie (end of the XVIIth Century and beginning of the XVIIIth); and Wirtele Inn (Old Montréal, beginning of the XIXth Century; (M. Courtemanche, Ostéothèque de Montréal, pers. comm.). Bones of river redhorse were also identified in food remains along the Richelieu River at Mandeville site (1450-1550 AD; Chapdelaine 1989), and at Fort Chambly (Richelieu River, 1665-1760; Walker and Cumbaa 1982).

Inventories of the Yamaska River and its tributary the Noire River conducted since the previous status review have not collected river redhorse (Boulet et al. 1995; Moisan 1998; La Violette 1999). Also, it has not been reported in the Châteauguay basin since 1963 (Couture 1972) despite extensive sampling effort (Mongeau et al. 1979; La Violette and Richard 1996). All three rivers were sampled intensively with boat-electrofishing units.

According to Vladykov (1942) and Cuerrier et al. (1946), river redhorse was relatively common in the Lac Saint-Louis, Bassin de Laprairie and Lac Saint-Pierre commercial catch in the 1940s. It was rare in the fluvial corridor between Lac Saint-Pierre and Québec City. Despite extensive fishing effort within the St. Lawrence lowlands fish survey (Mongeau et al. 1986) and the Réseau de suivi ichtyologique du Saint-Laurent (La Violette et al. 2003; Société de la faune et des parcs du Québec, unpubl. data) since the 1970s, only two river redhorse have been identified from St. Lawrence River. Individual specimens were collected at Lac Saint-Louis about 10 km downstream of Montréal in 1984 (Moisan 1998) and in April 2004 (R. Dumas, Société de la faune et des parcs du Québec, pers. comm.). There are no reports of this redhorse in the experimental weir fishery of the Aquarium du Québec (Québec City) since the beginning of its operation in 1960 (Robitaille et al. 1987; Y. de Lafontaine, Environment Canada, pers. comm.). Today, in Quebec, the river redhorse persists in the Richelieu River (from Chambly dam to the confluence with the St. Lawrence River) and in the Ottawa River. Additionally, spawning-ready river redhorse have been recently collected from the Gatineau River, at its confluence with the Ottawa River (Campbell 2001).

In the Richelieu River, between 1990 and 2004, more than 200 subadult and adult river redhorse were reported during ichthyological surveys and scientific studies on the spawning activities of five Moxostoma species (LaHaye et al. 1993; Boulet et al. 1995; Saint-Jacques 1995; Boulet et al. 1996; Dumont et al. 1997; LaHaye and Clermont 1997; Boulet and Simoneau 1999). Most were collected downstream of the Chambly and Saint-Ours dams. During the preliminary studies of the Vianney-Legendre Fish Ladder (Saint-Ours dam), 46 river redhorse were caught in the trap at the outlet of the ladder in 2002, 555 in 2003 and 104 in 2004 (Fleury and Desrochers 2003, 2004). Fall seine sampling in the Saint-Marc region of the Richelieu captured 14 young-of-year (YOY) in 1997, one in 1998, 14 in 1999 and 112 in 2001 (Vachon 1999a, 1999b, 2002). In 1998, a large reproducing population of river redhorse was identified in the Gatineau River. Fall boat-electrofishing from Alonzo-Wright bridge to the confluence with the Ottawa River (~5 km) resulted in the capture of 99 river redhorse. In the spring of 1999, over 200 river redhorse were captured (Campbell 2001).