Off-campus South Dakota State University users: To download campus access theses, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your South Dakota State University ID and password.

Non-South Dakota State University users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this thesis through interlibrary loan.

Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

Charles Berry Jr.


fish, fish communities, south dakota, habitat, evnironment, streams


There is a lack of information on the fishes and aquatic habitat of western South Dakota’s small streams. Historical data are limited to species presence/absence at a few locations. During the 1990’s, all of South Dakota’s large streams were surveyed to document the fish community, status of game fish, and habitat condition. Tributaries are important because they provide habitat for different fish species and life stages and can serve as a refuge from the harsher environmental conditions in the mainstem river. Tributary streams are important spawning areas and nursery habitats for migrant species because they warm quickly, support abundant invertebrate forage, and lack predatory fish. Objectives of the study were: 1) document species distribution and relative abundance, especially game fishes, 2) make detailed measures of the physical habitat, 3) compare mainstem and tributary fish communities, and 4) gather life history information on the declining fish species, flathead chub (Platygobio gracilis). Fish were collected at 32 stream reaches in the Bad, Keya Paha, Missouri, and White river basins using seines. Stream channel shape and water quality were measured at each stream reach (39 mean stream widths). Over 17,000 fish of 34 species (9 families) were collected. Native cyprinids dominated the fish community. Cyprinids accounted for 85.4% of the fish community and catostomids accounted for 4.9%. Relatively low watershed development and the presence of few introduced species accounted for the persistence of the native fish community. Sand shiners (Notropis ludibundus) and red shiners (Cyprinella lutrensis) comprised 26 - 82% of all fish captured at each reach. Game fish (primarily orange-spotted sunfish (Lepomis humilis), black bullhead (Ameiurus melas), and channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)) comprised 8.6% of the total catch. Range extensions were documented for Johnny darter (Etheostoma nigrum), red shiner, sauger (Sander canadense), brassy minnow (Hybognathus hankinsoni), shorthead redhorse (Moxostoma macrolepidotum), orange-spotted sunfish, pearl dace (Margariscus margarita), and silver chub (Macryhybopsis storeriana). Many South Dakota streams are controlled by abiotic factors (e.g., flow regime) rather than biotic factors (e.g., competition). The “harsh intermittent” or “intermittent runoff” flow regimes, suggest that an exception is the Keya Paha River basin, which is fed by Sand Hill springs and has a “perennial runoff” flow regime. Based on stream channel morphometry and parent geology (gravel and hard clay), the Bad River basin stream channels resist lateral migration and are readily incised. In comparison, sandy substrates of the Keya Paha River basin are highly erodable and allow lateral channel migration. White River basin streams are intermediate to the Bad River and Keya Paha River basins in channel movement and stability. Keya Paha River species (sand shiner, red shiner) abundance was indicated by length of vegetated stream bank as a predictor, whereas Bad River species abundances were predicted by bank angle and bank heights. The White River basin showed species-specific predictors of abundance including bank angle, bank height, and bankfull-to-width ratio. Bank angle was the best predictor of flathead chub abundance in two of the three models. Fish species similarity between mainstem and tributary reaches (Jaccard’s Index) in the White River basin increased in the downstream direction, whereas species similarity decreased downstream for the Keya Paha River and was highest in the middle for the Bad River. Several fish species - northern pike (Esox lucius), yellow perch (Perca flavescens), bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus),and Johnny darter, were found only in tributaries. Flathead chubs were widespread and were abundant in the White River basin, where maximum age was VI. Mean back-calculated total lengths at age were 55-, 76-, 93-, 110-, 132-, 160-mm TL for ages 1-6, which are much lower length-at-age averages than similar averages for populations in the Missouri River. White River flathead chubs were 61% female and 39% male. Information from this study provides a baseline for future fish community comparisons, predictions of fish distribution, and management planning.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Fish communities -- South Dakota
Fishes -- Habitat -- South Dakota
Aquatic habitats -- South Dakota
Stream ecology -- South Dakota



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 2003 Brandon C. Harland. All rights reserved.