Darters of the Upper Ouachita River


Photos by Richard Standage and Lisa Hlass
Fisheries Biologists

Ouachita National Forest


The Ouachita darter is an undescribed species in the scientific literature. It is found only in Arkansas and then only in the upper Ouachita River watershed. It is has been found in stretches of the Ouachita River above Lake Ouachita, and below Remmel Dam, in the lower Little Missouri River and in the lower Caddo River. Its range has been restricted by reservoir construction (Lakes Ouachita, DeGray and Greeson).

Dr. Henry W. Robison of Southern Arkansas University has been working with the Ouachita National Forest to find and describe the range of this species. As a result of this work, the Forest had the species placed on the Regional Forester's Sensitive Species List to add emphasis to this unique species with a restricted range. In recent years, the Ouachita National Forest fisheries biologists have conducted a number of surveys to monitor this species in cooperation with Dr. Robison and also with Dr. Jim Taylor and his class from Ouachita Baptist University. The following information sheet was developed to aid in the identification of this darter species and others that may be found with it.

The Darters

Ouachita darter (Percina sp. nov.) is shown below in a side (left picture) and top (right picture) view. This species was previously considered a form of the longnose darter. Yet to be described in literature, this species is now considered a full species. It is found only in the Ouachita River drainage including the Ouachita, Caddo and Little Missouri Rivers. Note the vertical bars with a couple of inverted “U’s”. Also note the caudal spot, the very pronounced snout and the horizontal dark band through the eye to the nose. It has a sharply triangular head when viewed from above.

[Picture]: The Ouachita Darter side view  [Picture]: The Ouachita Darter top view

Click on images for a larger view.




Logperch (Percina caprodes) is shown below in a side (left picture) and top (right picture) view. This species is commonly called a sand pike and may also be found in reservoirs. Note the vertical bars with no “U’s”. It also has the caudal spot but only a light horizontal band on the nose that does not extend to or past the eye. There is a light vertical band through the eye. The head has a more bulbous nose with the mouth slightly subterminal or back under the tip of the snout. Up close, the mouth almost has a “sneer” look to it. The head, when viewed from above, does not have the elongated triangular appearance of the Ouachita darter.

[Picture]: Side view of a Logperch darter

Click on images for a larger view.




Greenside darter (Etheostoma blennioides) is shown below in a side (left picture) view. They are one of the most common large darters of the Ouachita River. Note the bars on the head from the point of the snout back to the eye and the vertical band from the eye down and the eye to the top of the head. In clear and bright conditions, the bands below the lateral line are distinctly green.

[Picture]: The Greenside darter from the side.  [Picture]: The Greenside darter from the top.

Click on images for a larger view.



Banded darter (Etheostoma zonale) (pictured below left). The bars on the side of this species are green. It is quite common to see this species in close association with greenside darters.

Orangebelly darter (Etheostoma radiosum) (pictured below right). This darter may be dark or light colored and is often seen under rocks with only the front part of its body sticking out. It is more laterally compressed than the other darters with which it shares the rivers.

[Picture]: The Banded darter  [Picture]: The Orangebelly darter.

Click on images for a larger view.


Channel darter (Percina copelandi) (pictured below left). This darter has rectangular spots on its lateral line and spots almost grading into saddles on its back. When viewed up close, the spots all have diffuse margins. The darter is generally viewed out in the open and in contact with the bottom.

Johnny darter (Etheostoma nigrum) (pictured below right). This darter is in the foreground with a channel darter behind it. Note the W- and X- shaped markings on the side of the johnny darter and the markings that look like bars across the back of this darter. This darter will typically be seen in more gravelly to sand and finer substrates.

[Picture]: The Channel darter

[Picture]: The Johnny darter

Images above are full size.


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Aquatics and Fishing

Ouachita Crayfish
Ouachita River Darters
Little River Darters
Leopard Darters