fish on the riverbank
Home> River Research> Allegheny River> Fishes of Small Tributaries

Fishes of Small Tributaries
Fish in the Allegheny and Monongahela River Valley Streams

Michael Koryak, Chief Limnologist

and Linda J. Stafford, Biologist
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District

The improvements in water quality that began in the 1970s allowed fish to invade and recolonize reclaimed waters. This restoration of local river fisheries has been discussed by Preston and White (1978), Pearson and Krumholz (1984), Koryak and Hoskin (1994), and others. The first species to appear were those that had persisted in upstream refuges. Recolonization by many of the large river species occurred later and apparently originated from distant downstream areas.

A total of twenty-nine species of fish were collected in the tributaries of the Allegheny River, and sixteen species in the tributaries of the Monongahela River. Freshwater drum and quillback were the only two species collected in the Monongahela River tributaries which were not collected in Allegheny River tributaries. Blacknose dace were the most common fish in these streams, and showed the widest distribution of any species. Blacknose dace were present in twenty-four of the study streams, creek chubs in twenty-two and white suckers in twelve. Stonerollers and rainbow darters were both found in ten of the streams. Bluntnose minnows occurred in nine and fantail darters in eight. Sensitive sculpin and/or darter species were present in eight of the Allegheny River tributaries and three of the Monongahela River tributaries. This trio of urban stream fishes–creek chub, white sucker and blacknose dace in particular–are also locally the characteristic fish fauna of very small non-degraded streams and headwater habitats.

The streams with the greatest diversity of fishes were Little Bull Creek (sixteen species), Bailey Run (fifteen species), Plum Creek (fifteen species), Pucketa Creek (ten species), Squaw Run (ten species) and Mingo Creek (ten species). With the exception of Mingo Creek, which drains into the Monongahela River, all of these high diversity streams are tributaries of the Allegheny River. In the Allegheny River drainage, 44% of the tributaries had three or less species of fish, and 76% of the Monongahela River tributaries had three or less fish species. Guys Run (D.A. 2.05 mi2), Quigley Creek (D.A. 1.10 mi2), Falling Springs Run (D.A. 0.14 mi2) and Blacks Run (D.A. 0.63 mi2) in the Allegheny River drainage had no fish at all. In the Monongahela River drainage, Homestead Run (D.A. 2.34 mi2) and Tassey Hollow (D.A.< 1.0 mi2) did not support any fish life. The absence of fish from Falling Springs Run, Blacks Run and Tassey Hollow might be related to the small sizes of these streams (drainage areas less than one square mile).

In terms of sport fish and recreational angling potential, trout were captured in Little Bull Creek, Bailey Run and Mingo Creek, and observed in Pigeon Creek (one dead rainbow trout). The smallmouth bass population found in Plum Creek was surprising and exceptional for a small local suburban stream. There were also rock bass and sunfish in Plum Creek. In Pine Creek, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, rock bass and sauger were collected and other sport species likely are present.

Condition Score Ranking

To further characterize the fisheries of the 3R2N study streams, Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scores were computed from data collected by electrofishing at thirty of the thirty-five streams. Four streams had fair scores: Crawford Run (34), Pucketa Creek (34), Kelley Run (26) and Squaw Run (26). Three streams had poor scores: Perry Mill Run (22) Sandy Creek (18) and Pine Run (16). The scores of the remaining sixteen streams were all very poor. Streams with no fish, or essentially no fish, cannot be rated by the IBI technique. Homestead Run, Quigley Creek and Guys Run, which had no fish, were assigned values of 0. Thompson Run/Duquesne, which had only one white sucker, and Peters Creek, which had only two apparently transient individuals, were both assigned IBI values of 10.

Rare and Endangered Fish Species

Two individuals of one species of fish which is classified as endangered within the Commonwealth by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the river shiner (Notropis blennius), were collected in Bailey Run near its mouth on 23 May 2002.