Historical Changes in Large River Fish Assemblages of the Americas

Wabash River Fishes from 1800 to 2000

James R. Gammon

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569728.ch19

Abstract.—The present ichthyofauna (1965–2001) of the Wabash River system is compared to that of three periods: presettlement through 1820, 1875–1900, and 1940– 1950. This second largest Ohio River tributary flows freely for 350 mi. However, its environment and watershed have been altered greatly from presettlement times; twothirds has been converted to agriculture, eliminating all prairies and most forests and wetlands. Canals, large and small dams, channelization, and effluents have extinguished 12 fish species, diminished some, and favored others. Thirteen of approximately 175 species are recent, including 3 aliens. Better municipal and industrial waste treatment has improved water quality, but excessive agricultural runoff remains detrimental to many fishes. Degraded habitats exacerbate these problems. Many sensitive species are today either absent or severely reduced in distribution and abundance compared to 50 years ago. Smallmouth bass Micropterus dolomieu has been replaced by largemouth bass M. salmoides or spotted bass M. punctulatus, and few visual piscivores occur except near reservoirs.