Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2018 - 15
The comeback of the yellowfin madtom took a long time, but by the 10th
year of effort, they were showing up
again in Abrams Creek and later in
the Tellico River.
east, CFI is now housed in
a 5,000-square-foot facility with 600 tanks.
"A lot of the fishes
that are imperiled or endangered around here are
things like darters," says
Shute. "Part of that is because they live on or near the
bottom. ... The two madtom species and quite a few
of the different darters spawn either in the gravel substrate or under flat rocks. And if these rocks are silted in
with dirt and mud, they aren't able to get under there
and spawn, or the eggs suffocate, which is what makes
a lot of these little guys rare and endangered."
Over the years, says Shute, the group's restoration
mission has remained the same, but the scope has expanded. CFI raises certain fishes for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to determine the levels of
toxicity they can tolerate, and propagates host fish for
threatened freshwater mussels. The organization has also
stepped up its outreach and educational efforts, partnering with the Little River Watershed Association and the
local Boys and Girls Club to take underserved children
snorkeling in Abrams Creek in warm-weather months.
"I'm most proud of raising the awareness of some of
these rare fish that were receiving very little attention in
the past," Shute says. "Without it, nobody's going to try
and save them.
"If we lost the smoky madtom or the yellowfin madtom, probably no one would ever notice," he admits.
"But at some point if you lose this species, and then you
lose that species, and then you start losing some things
that are a little more common, you've got to say, 'Something's bad wrong.' ... To me, I don't need a justification.
They're just cool critters. I'd hate to lose any of them."
May/June 2018 15