Habitat and Geography

Percina phoxocephala inhabit a wide range of rivers and river systems in the United States, particularly in the mid-west area. In Wisconsin, the Slender head Darter is most commonly associated with Lake Winnebago, where many locals and tourist fish them. The Mississippi River system is the habitat most nationally recognized for this species, however, with Slenderheads being found as far northwest as South Dakota, and South as Alabama and Texas. (Becker,1983) (Page, 1983)(Smith, 1979)

Since the 1920’s the Slenderhead Darter’s abundance in the Mississippi River system has been relatively steady- in a normal sampling, 1-3 are captured in a given area. Some places, however, have shown greater concentrations of Slenderheads. Samplings as high as 24 have been taken from the Mississippi River in Richland County, Ohio, and other samples as high as 40 have been taken from Pelican River in Oneida County, Wisconsin. (Becker,1983)  Though there are areas where the Slenderhead is flourishing, in other places such as Iowa, this species is being reduced drastically due to agricultural practices and fishing. (Iowa Fish Atlas, 2012) 

The rivers and streams they are found in usually range from medium to large in size (>8 meters), with moderate to strong currents, and are at least a half meter deep. (Iowa Fish Atlas, 2012) (Becker,1983) Though rare, when low water levels occur these fish will also reside in small rivers and streams. The water they are found in tends to be murky and dark in hue due to an abundance of organic matter, with sediment composed of sand and gravel, a necessity for their reproduction process. (Becker,1983)(Smith, 1979)(ODNR, 2013) During the winter months, this species has been known to move to deeper environments downstream, and then return during the spring/summer to mate. (Page, 1983)

Other fish commonly associated with the Slenderhead Darter which reside in similar environments are Smallmouth Bass, Johnny Darter, Rainbow Darter, Logperch, Bluntnose Minnow, Spottail Shiner, Yellow Bullhead, Stonecat, and Fantail Darter. (Becker,1983)

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