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Distribution of the bantam sunfish, Lepomis symmetricus (perciformes: centrarchidae), in Arkansas.

Abstract.--This study reports 77 new geographic and 15 new county records for the bantam sunfish, Lepomis symmetricus, collected between May 1988 and June 2007 in 30 counties of Arkansas. Detailed distributional data are included as well as an updated map showing the overall distribution of this fish in the state. Bantam sunfish were collected from all major drainages within the Gulf Coastal Plain and Mississippi Alluvial Plain physiographic provinces of Arkansas, including the Arkansas, Ouachita, Mississippi, Red, Saline, St. Francis and White rivers. Based on these new collections and historical records of the past, it is believed that populations of L. symmetricus in Arkansas are stable and do not warrant a protected legal status.


The bantam sunfish, Lepomis symmetricus Forbes is a very small (< 9.0 cm) nongame centrarchid that ranges in the former Mississippi Embayment from southern Illinois to the Gulf Coast, including Gulf Slope drainages from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, west to the Colorado River, Texas, and McCurtain County, Oklahoma (Smith 1979; Burr 1980; Page & Burr 1991; Miller & Robison 2004). The species inhabits shallow waters of lowland swamps, oxbow lakes and sluggish backwaters of creeks and bayous almost always in association with aquatic vegetation, submerged logs, and stumps over a detritus and muddy bottom (Burr 1977; Robison & Buchanan 1988). In Arkansas, this fish is reported to be more common in the southern part of the state than in the east, restricted to the Coastal Plain lowlands of all major drainages (Robison & Buchanan 1988).

Black (1940) recorded the first occurrence of L. symmetricus in Arkansas based on collections from Monroe County (Maple Slough, 3.2 km east of Brinkley) and St. Francis County (relief off the L'Anguille River, 1.6 km northeast of Palestine). Collections including bantam sunfish in Arkansas were so few that Buchanan (1974) treated the species as having an "undetermined status," although he suggested that the species was "possibly endangered in Arkansas."

Since then, Robison (1975) added three more records including Big Cornie Creek in Columbia County, a site in the Saline River drainage of Bradley County, and another from the Ouachita River backwater in Calhoun County. Loe (1983) provided two records of L. symmetricus from Nevada County. Robison & Buchanan (1988) provided 26 collection sites in all major drainages in Arkansas for the period 1960 to 1987, and two additional pre-1960 sites. Additional records for L. symmetricus were provided by Buchanan et al. (2003) who reported the species was uncommon in the Red River (upstream and downstream from the mouth of the Little River) of extreme southwestern Arkansas. The most recent records are those of Buchanan (2005) who used rotenone sampling to collect 180 bantam sunfish from six Arkansas reservoirs, including Champagnolle Creek, Dierks, Erling, Merrisach, Millwood, and Pool 2 of the Arkansas River.


To update the status of this uncommon sunfish this study sampled streams throughout Arkansas and mapped museum collection data. Between May 1988 and June 2007 bantam sunfish were collected with standard nylon seines (1.8 by 0.5 m and 2.7 by 0.5 m of 3.2 mm mesh) or dipnets. Fishes were preserved in 10% formalin and later transferred to 45% isopropanol. Specimens were field identified, verified in the laboratory, and vouchers deposited in the collections at Southern Arkansas University, Magnolia, Arkansas (SAU), the University of Louisiana-Monroe Museum of Natural History, Monroe, Louisiana (NLU), Henderson State University (HSU), the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, North Carolina (NCSM), and the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, Fort Smith, Arkansas (UA-FS). Detailed data provided on the 77 new sites are as follows: (county, specific locality [township, section, and range when available], date, museum accession number (if known), and number of specimens in parentheses).

Material examined.--The following is a listing of collection localities of L. symmetricus in Arkansas. County names followed by an asterisk (*) represent new county records.

ARKANSAS COUNTY (n = 14): Cox Cypress Lake, 16.1 km N of Bayou Meto (Sec. 2, T5S, R6W). 4 May 2001. NLU 77315 (2); Arkansas River, Merrisach Lake Park boat dock ramp, River Mile 14.47 (Sec. 6, T8S, R2W). 22 June 2004. NLU 78535 (4); Unnamed creek, 3.2 km N of St. Hwy. 165 (Sec. 25/26, T4S, R3W). 9 October 1996. NLU 74717 (3); Little LaGrue Bayou, 6.4 km NE of Almyra, upstream of weir (Sec. 12, T3S, R4W). 5 September 1996. NLU 74659, 74817 (8).

ASHLEY COUNTY (n = 27): Hanks Creek, 0.3 km W of St. Hwy. 81 on U.S. Hwy. 82 (Sec. 28, T18S, R7W). 24 March 1989 and 9 May 1991. NLU 62310, 62315, 65393 (15); Hanks Creek at U.S. Hwy. 82W, 3.2 km S of Hamburg (Sec. 28, T18S, R7W). 29 April 1990. NLU 64413 (2); Hank's Creek, 1.3 km W of St. Hwy. 81 on U.S. Hwy. 82. 15 June 1993. SAU (4); Thompson Creek, 11.3 km NW of Crossett (Sec. 11, T17S, R9W). 5 July 1996. HSU 1343 (3); Bearhouse Creek at gravel road NE of Snyder (Sec. 22, T16S, R5W). 21 April 2000. SAU (1). Unnamed tributary to Chemin-A-Haut Creek at St. Hwy. 52 (Sec. 19, T18S, R7W). 21 April 2000. SAU (2 juveniles).

BRADLEY COUNTY (n = 3): Moro Creek at Moro Bay State Park (Sec. 21, T16S, R12W). 10 June 2005. SAU (1); L'Aigle Creek at county road, 14.5 km S Hermitage (Sec. 18, T16S, R10W). 10 June 2005. SAU (2).

CALHOUN COUNTY (n = 10): Locust Bayou at St. Hwy. 278, 14.5 km E of Camden (Sec. 30, T13S, R15W). 2 May 1990. SAU (1); Locust Bayou at St. Hwy. 278, 14.5 km E of Camden (Sec. 30, T13S, R15W). 1 June 2003. NCSM 36205 (1); Moro Creek at St. Hwy. 160 (Sec. 9, T16S, R12W). 18 June 2007. SAU (5); Champagnolle Creek at co. road (Sec. 27, T15S, R14W). 18 June 2007. SAU (3).

CLARK COUNTY * (n = 8): Tupelo Creek at St. Hwy. 51, 3.2 km E of Arkadelphia. 13 March 1996. UA-FS (6); McNeeley Creek, 6.4 km S Beirne off St. Hwy. 51 (Sec. 31, T10S, R20W). 20 April 1997. HSU 2154 (1); Gurdon Lake. 17 August 2000. UA-FS (1).

CLEVELAND COUNTY (n = 2): Saline River at TAR (Sec. 17, T11S, R9W). 7 July 1991. SAU (1); Big Creek at St. Hwy. 114 (Sec. 10, T9S, R10W). 2 May 1996. SAU (1).

CHICOT COUNTY * (n = 2): Overflow area E of levee on Mississippi River at end of St. Hwy. 144 (Sec. 21, T15S, R1E). 18 June 2002. SAU (2).

COLUMBIA COUNTY (n = 9): Dorcheat Bayou at county road, 4.8 km SW of Philadelphia (Sec. 16, T18S, R22W). 16 September 1989. SAU (7 juveniles); Dorcheat Bayou at St. Hwy. 160, 6.4 km E of Taylor (Sec. 9, T19S, R22W). 19 May 2004. SAU (1); Horsehead Creek at U.S. Hwy. 79, 9.7 km E of Magnolia (Sec. 17, T18S,R20W). 14 May 2005. SAU (1).

DALLAS COUNTY* (n = 7): East Tulip Creek at St. Hwy. 8 at Princeton (Sec. 34, T8S, R15W). 13 March 1996. SAU (5); Unnamed tributary to Freeo Creek at Ramsey (Sec. 5, T10S, R14W). 29 April 2003. SAU (2).

DESHA COUNTY * (n = 1): Canal 19 at St. Hwy. 138, E of Winchester (Sec. 6, T11S, R3W). 27 August 2003. NLU 78310 (1).

DREW COUNTY (n = 5): Cut-Off Creek at St. Hwy. 35, 1.1 km E of Collins (Sec. 31, T13S, R4W). 8 April 1994. SAU (2); Bayou Bartholomew at St. Hwy. 35, 6.4 km E Collins (Sec. 28, T13S,R4W). 28 September 1999. SAU (3).

HEMPSTEAD COUNTY (n = 5): Millwood Lake at Saratoga Landing, 0.8 km W of Saratoga (Sec. 6, T12S, R27W). 10 August 1990. SAU (5).

HOT SPRING COUNTY (n = 1): Saline Bayou, 4.0 km S Friendship (Sec. 23, T6S, R19W). 14 February 1997. HSU 2154 (1).

HOWARD COUNTY* (n = 3): Saline River at county road, 3.2 km W of Schaal (Sec. 10, T11S, R28W). 12 June 2000. SAU (1); Mine Creek at county road, 1.6 km W of Toilette (Sec. 6, T11S, R29W). 11 August 1990. SAU (2).

JEFFERSON COUNTY (n = 3): Yellow Lake on Pine Bluff Arsenal (Sec. 2, T5S, R10W). 1 July 1999. SAU (2); Bayou Meto WMA, Wrape Plantation, roadside pool (Sec. 6, T6S, R5W). 8 May 2002. NLU 77306 (1).

LAFAYETTE COUNTY (n = 8): Bodcau Creek at county road, 1.6 km N Lewisville (Sec. 7, T15S, R23W). 16 March 1990 and 5 July 1992. SAU (2); Lake Erling at St. Hwy. 160 (Sec. 35, T19S, R23W). 24 September 1991. SAU (6).

LINCOLN COUNTY * (n = 65): Bayou Bartholomew at Garrett Bridge (Sec. 6, T10S, R5W). 3 June 1989. SAU (3); Oakwood Bayou at St. Hwy. 212, 8.0 km E of government road (Sec. 7, T9S, R7W). 17 April 2003. NLU 77785 (60); Bayou Bartholomew, 6.4 km N of Star City (Sec. 21, T8S, R7W). 7 July 2003. SAU (1); Bayou Bartholomew at St. Hwy. 293 (Sec. 15, T9S, R6W). 7 July 2003. SAU (1).

LITTLE RIVER COUNTY (n = 13): Little River Relief at St. Hwy. 41, 6.6 km SW of Horatio (Sec. 10, T10S, R32W). 25 May 1988. NCSM 37422 (5); Cypress Creek at St. Hwy. 234 in Winthrop (Sec. 7, T11S, R31W). 6 June 1989. SAU (1 juvenile); Flat Creek at St. Hwy. 234, 3.2 km E of Winthrop (Sec. 21, T11S, R31W). 10 July 1990. SAU (1 juvenile); Caney Creek at St. Hwy. 41, 4.0 km SW of Billingsley's Corner (Sec. 28, T10S, R32W). 1 March 1992. SAU (2); Little River backwater at U.S. Hwy. 71, 3.2 km N of Wilton (Sec. 24, T11S, R29W). 5 October 2001. SAU (4).

LONOKE COUNTY * (n = 56): Indian Bayou at Tomberlin (Sees. 21/28, T2S, R8W). 14 July 2000. NLU 76916 (55); Arkansas River at River Mile 104, Willow Bar Cutoff off U. S. Hwy. 165, 0.4 km NW of Pilgrims Rest Church (Sec. 21, T2S, R9W). 13 July 2000. NLU 76772 (1).

MILLER COUNTY (n = 200): Mercer Bayou ramp off County Road 109, above lower structure (Sec. 19, T18S, R27W). 25 May 1988. NLU 75772 (3); Kelly Bayou at county road, 6.4 km SW of Doddridge (Sec. 9, T20S, R27W). 3 September 1990. SAU (1); West Fork Kelly Bayou at county road, 1.6 km S of Brightstar (Sec. 28, T18S, R28W). 3 September 1990. SAU (1). Mercer Bayou at gated structure, 7.6 km W of Beggy (Sec. 2, T18S, R28W). 24 May 1999. NLU 75765 (3); Upper Mercer Bayou, bendway between ramp and gate (Sec. 10, T18S, R28W). 25 May 1999. NLU 75785 (6); Middle Mercer Bayou, upper lateral tributary (Sec. 10, T18S, R28W). 25 May 1999. NLU 75791 (6); Lower reach of Mercer Bayou, ramp at County Road 109 (Sec. 30, T18S, R17W). 4 August 1999. NLU 75825 (4); Mercer Bayou, upper reach at gated structure, 7.6 km west of Beggy (Sec. 2, T18S, R28W). 11 August 1999. NLU 75811 (34); Mercer Bayou, middle reach at lateral trib. (Sec. 2, T18S, R28W). 11 August 1999. NLU 75820 (30); Mercer Bayou, upper reach at bendway between gate structure and ramp (Sec. 10, T18S, R28W). 11 August 1999. NLU 75815 (112).

MISSISSIPPI COUNTY* (n = 72): Mississippi River bar pit No. 17, 0.8 km E of Wilson (Sec. 22, T11N, R10E). 4 August 1996 and 4 August 1997. NLU 74322, 74329 (10, 62).

NEVADA COUNTY* (n = 27): Middle Creek, 14.5 km N of Prescott on St. Hwy. 19 (Sec. 27, T9S, R23W). 19 February 1983. NLU (1); Caney Creek, 4.8 km N of Bluff City on St. Hwy. 24 (Sec. 22, T11S, R20W). 19 February 1983. NLU (26).

OUACHITA COUNTY (n = 5): En Core Fabre Bayou, 1.6 km N of Camden (Sec. 10, T13S, R17W). 22 August 1994. SAU (2); Bragg Lake, 2.0 km SE Bragg City at St. Hwy. 24 (Sec. 33, T12S, R18W). 12 April 1997. HSU 2055 (2); Freeo Creek at St. Hwy. 9, 8.9 km S of Dallas County line (Sec. 36, T11S, R16W). HSU 2184 (1).

PHILLIPS COUNTY* (n = 8): Mississippi River borrow pits off St. Hwy. 20, 11.3 km S of Helena (Sec. 35, T3S, R4E). 21 July 1997. NLU 74145 (8).

PIKE COUNTY* (n = 1): Unnamed slough, 1.6 km E jct. St. Hwys. 195 and 301 (Sec. 13, T9S, R24W). 6 April 1997. HSU 1557 (1).

PRAIRIE COUNTY* (n = 3): Unnamed creek, 4.0 km W of Seidenstricker (Sec. 1 and 2, T1N, R6W). 4 September 1996. NLU 74630 (1); Hooks Canal at St. Hwy. 11, 4.8 km NE of Slovak (Sec. 20, T1N, R5W). 6 September 1996. NLU 74601 (1); South Fork, 2.4 km E of Hazen at U.S. Hwy. 70 (Sec. 21, T2N, R5W). 10 October 1996. NLU 74727 (1).

PULASKI COUNTY (n = 3): Backwater area along St. Hwy. 365, 0.8 km N of Woodson (Sec. 8, T2S, R11W). 10 July 2005. SAU (3).

SEVIER COUNTY (n = 6): Rolling Fork River at St. Hwy. 24, 4.8 km W of Horatio (Sec. 28, T9S, R32W). 8 October 1989. SAU (3); Millwood Lake, Paraloma Landing at end of St. Hwy. 234 (Sec. 29, T11S, R28W). 18 June 2002. SAU (2); Little River at end of St. Hwy. 317, 4.8 km S of Brownstown (Sec. 25, T11S, R29W). 19 June 2002. SAU (1).

UNION COUNTY* (n = 6): Bear Creek at St. Hwy. 160, 8.0 km NE Mount Holly (Sec. 21, T16S, R17W). 17 March 1989. SAU (1); Tributary of Ward Creek at U.S. Hwy. 82, E of El Dorado (Sec. 15, T18S, R14W). 29 October 2000. NLU 77006 (2); unnamed tributary to Big Creek at U.S. Hwy. 82, 6.4 km W El Dorado (Sec. 30, T17S, R16W). 26 February 2002. SAU (1); Big Cornie Creek at St. Hwy. 15 (Sec. 35, T19S, R18W). 3 March 2002. SAU (1); Lapoile Creek at U.S. Hwy. 82, 16.1 km NE Strong (Sec. 18, T18S, R10W). 7 April 2003. SAU (1).

WOODRUFF COUNTY* (n = 3): Bayou DeView at St. Hwy. 38, 1.6 km E of Cotton Plant (Sec. 33, T5N, R2W). 29 October 2001. NLU 78209 (3).


This study documents the collection of 576 (10 juvenile, 566 adult) L. symmetricus from 30 of 75 counties (40%) of Arkansas (Fig. 1). Of those, 176 specimens (31%) were taken on 11 August 1999 from Mercer Bayou in Miller County. The second largest collection, 62 L. symmetricus or 11% of the total were collected on 4 August 1997 from a Mississippi River borrow pit in Mississippi County. Loe (1983), in his unpublished thesis, also collected 27 specimens of L. symmetricus from Nevada County not included in Robison and Buchanan (1988).


Bantam sunfish were collected from all major drainages within the Gulf Coastal Plain (GCP) and Mississippi Alluvial Plain (MAP) physiographic provinces of Arkansas, including the Arkansas, Ouachita, Mississippi, Red, Saline, St. Francis, and White rivers. Compared with the records in Robison & Buchanan (1988), this study adds 15 new county records of L. symmetricus, including the northeasternmost, southeasternmost, and southwesternmost range extensions in the state for Mississippi, Chicot, and Little River counties, respectively. Further, numerous other collections of the species are noted from new localities in counties with historical records. All specimens originated from habitats within the GCP and MAP, although several collections were taken near the interface of the GCP and the Ouachita Mountains uplift. Because collections presently indicate that L. symmetricus is more widespread and common than was previously known, the authors believe that its populations in Arkansas are stable and do not warrant a protected legal status.


Special thanks are extended to Drs. T. M. Buchanan (UA-FS), N. H. Douglas (ULM) and W. C. Starnes (NCSM) for use of their previously unpublished Arkansas records of Lepomis symmetricus. Appreciation is extended to numerous collectors, especially T. M Buchanan, N. H. Douglas and W. C. Starnes. Also, thanks to previous SAU Vertebrate Natural History classes, and former SAU students Jan Rader, Christa Brummett, Nick Covington, and Ken Ball, and HSU ichthyology classes, and former HSU students Kevin Funderbork and Jeannie Thompson for assistance in collecting. We also thank the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for providing scientific collecting permits to HWR and RT.


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Buchanan, T. M. 1974. Threatened native fishes of Arkansas. Pp. 67-92, in Arkansas Natural Area Plan (T. Foti, Ed.), Arkansas Department of Planning, Little Rock, 248 pp.

Buchanan, T. M. 2005. Small fish species of Arkansas reservoirs. J. Arkansas Acad. Sci., 59:26-42.

Buchanan, T. M., D. Wilson, L. G. Claybrook & W. G. Layher. 2003. Fishes of the Red River in Arkansas. J. Arkansas Acad. Sci., 57: 18-26.

Burr, B. M. 1977. The bantam sunfish, Lepomis symmetricus: Systematics and distribution, and life history in Wolf Lake, Illinois. Illinois Nat. Hist. Surv. Bull., 31:437-466.

Burr, B. M. 1980. Lepomis symmetricus. P. 603, in Atlas of "North American freshwater fishes (D. S. Lee, C. R. Gilbert, C. H. Hocutt, R. E. Jenkins, D. E. McAllister & J. R. Stauffer Jr., eds), North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, 854 pp.

Loe, R. A. 1983. A subsequent study of the fishes of the Little Missouri River, west central Arkansas. Unpublished M.S. Thesis, Northeast Louisiana Univ., Monroe, 139 pp.

Miller, R. J. & H. W. Robison. 2004. Fishes of Oklahoma, 2nd Ed. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, 450 pp.

Page, L. M. & B. M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes, North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Massachusetts, 432pp.

Robison, H. W. 1975. New distributional records of fishes from the lower Ouachita River system in Arkansas. Proc. Arkansas Acad. Sci., 29:54-56.

Robison, H. W. & T. M. Buchanan. 1988. Fishes of Arkansas. Univ. Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, 536 pp.

Smith, P. W. 1979. The fishes of Illinois. Univ. Illinois Press, Urbana, 314 pp.

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Chris T. McAllister, Renn Tumlison and Henry W. Robison

Department of Physical & Life Sciences, Chadron State College Chadron, Nebraska 69337, Department of Biology, Henderson State University Arkadelphia, Arkansas 71999 and Department of Biology, Southern Arkansas University Magnolia, Arkansas 71754
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Author:McAllister, Chris T.; Tumlison, Renn; Robison, Henry W.
Publication:The Texas Journal of Science
Date:Feb 1, 2008
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