Meet the Darters
The Upper Etowah River Watershed is home to four unique fish: the Etowah Darter, two species of Holiday Darter, and the Cherokee Darter.
The Etowah, Cherokee and the two species of Holiday darters are endemic, meaning the only place in the world they are found is in the Etowah Watershed. The Amber Darter is found in the Etowah and Conasauga Watersheds. Both the Etowah and Amber darters are listed on the federal endangered species list, while the Cherokee darter is listed as threatened.
The Holiday darters are also small stream fish. One lives exclusively in the Amicalola and the other lives exclusively in the most upper reaches of the Etowah – pretty much just Lumpkin county.
We sat down for a chat with a few of these elusive creatures:
So, tell us about yourselves. Where do you like to hang out?
Amber: The Cherokee Darter likes the smaller, tributary streams in the watershed best, while me and my friend, the Etowah Darter, enjoy the main river and large tributary streams. He’s named after it, you know. I have some cousins who live in the tributaries on the Conasauga River.
We do agree on what part of the waterway we like: the riffle part of a stream; where the water bubbles over the rocks. I especially enjoy larger, cobbled rocks and clear water. I hate muddy water.
What is your favorite meal?
Etowah: Oh, I love a good caddis fly larvae. And mayfly larvae are mighty fine too.
What do you do for fun?
Cherokee: Get to know other darters.
What is your greatest challenge?
Cherokee: When we lay our eggs in between the rocks, they often get smothered by dirt in the stream and it’s hard to breath. We really wish humans could learn to keep the mud out of the streams!
Finally, here’s a really personal question — What is your sign?
Pisces! Of course!