The Yellowstone River is the longest unimpounded river in the conterminous United States. It has a relatively natural flow regime, which helps maintain diverse habitats and fish assemblages uncommon in large rivers elsewhere. The lower Yellowstone River was thought to support a diverse nongame fish assemblage including several species of special concern. However, comprehensive data on the small nongame fish assemblage of the lower Yellowstone River is lacking. Therefore, we sampled the Yellowstone River downstream of its confluence with the Clark’s Fork using fyke nets and otter trawls to assess distributions and abundances of small nongame fishes. We captured 42 species (24 native and 18 nonnative) in the lower Yellowstone River with fyke nets. Native species constituted over 99% of the catch. Emerald shiners Notropis atherinoides, western silvery minnows Hybognathus argyritis, flathead chubs Platygobio gracilis, sand shiners Notropis stramineus, and longnose dace Rhinichthys cataractae composed nearly 94% of fyke net catch and were caught in every segment of the study area. We captured 24 species by otter trawling downstream of the Tongue River. Sturgeon chubs Macrhybopsis gelida, channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus, flathead chubs, stonecats Noturus flavus, and sicklefin chubs Macrhybopsis meeki composed 89% of the otter trawl catch. The upstream distributional limit of sturgeon chubs in the Yellowstone River was the Tongue River; few sicklefin chubs were captured above Intake Diversion Dam. This study not only provides biologists with baseline data for future monitoring efforts on the Yellowstone River but serves as a benchmark for management and conservation efforts in large rivers elsewhere as the Yellowstone River represents one of the best references for a naturally functioning Great Plains river.
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