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Rare fish released into Oconaluftee River



Rare fish released into Oconaluftee River
by Jon Ostendorff, jostendorff@citizen-times.com
published July 23, 2007 12:15 am


CHEROKEE — Biologists are trying a new experiment in Cherokee with a rare fish that science is just now starting to study.

Wildlife and environmental officials with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the federal government have released 800 young sicklefin redhorse fish into the Oconaluftee River on the Qualla Boundary with the hopes that they will grow and spawn in the river’s rocky bottom.

The fish was once a mainstay in the diet of the Cherokee. They caught the fish with stone weirs and baskets. It was typically smoked and dried and used in soups.

The fish is named for its sickle-shaped dorsal fin and because it was once believed to be a redhorse sucker. It grows to about 3 feet long and can weight up to 7 pounds.

The sicklefin lives only in the Little Tennessee and Hiawasse river basins. Robert Jenkins, professor of biology at Roanoke College in Virginia, discovered the fish in 1992. He is in the process of formally describing it.

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