Presentation on the PIGEON RIVER RECOVERY PROJECT: 2001 to 2010

Joyce A. Coombs presenting at Pendergrass Library, Tuesday, March 23, 3:00-4:00

In 2001, a cooperative effort was begun to restore native fish populations to the Pigeon River, once so polluted that all mollusks and many fish species were extirpated. Volunteers from federal and state agencies, industry, and private organizations created the Pigeon River Recovery Project to begin re-introduction of fish and other aquatic species. Early successes in TN led to the expansion of the project into western NC. Twenty species of fish collected from the French Broad basin and the upper reaches of the Pigeon River have been re-introduced into the Pigeon River at selected sites in TN and NC. Reproduction was first documented in gilt darters in 2003. Monitoring surveys over the past five years have documented gilt, bluebreast, and stripetail darters, mountain madtoms, and mountain brook lampreys in the Pigeon River near Newport, TN. In 2005, a survey of the lower five miles of the Pigeon River documented gilt darters in nearly every riffle; this species appears to be re-colonizing the lower Pigeon River. As of 2008, the stripetail darter and the mountain brook lamprey have also established populations. Of nine transplanted species in NC, four shiners (mirror, telescope, Tennessee, silver) and the gilt darter have been collected during monitoring efforts. Silver and telescope shiners have re-established populations in a 10-mile reach of the Pigeon River in NC. Management of this project must be flexible. Continued relocation of selected species in TN and NC reaches will be undertaken based on available habitat and reproductive success of targeted species.

Coombs*, J.A., and Wilson, J. L., Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, University of Tennessee.
Burr, J. E., Division of Water Pollution Control, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Fraley, S. J., Division of Inland Fisheries, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

Joyce Coombs received a B.S. in Biology from James Madison University and worked for the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife for the state of Washington. She was awarded a M.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from the University of Tennessee in 2003 and since 2003 has been employed by UT-Knoxville as a Research Associate and coordinator for the Pigeon River Recovery Project.

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