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Percina; Fish populations--Minnesota; Fishes--Habitat


The distribution and habitat of gilt darter (Percina evides) populations in Minnesota were studied from 1977 through 1983. Gilt darters occurred only in the St. Croix River drainage in moderate to large rivers or near the mouths of large streams. In the late spring, gilt darters were found most often in cobble raceways of moderate to swift current, where they later spawned. Young-of-the-year occupied this same habitat until early fall, when they and the adults moved to deep, swift chutes of rubble riffles to overwinter. Gilt darters tended to associate with the deeper, swifter portions of raceways and riffles, and they were not associated with rooted aquatic vegetation. Gilt darters were one of the most abundant riffle species encountered during the study. Their closest ecological associates were the longnose dace (Rhinichthys cataractae), the slender head darter (Percina phoxocephala), and the logperch (P. caprodes). The species appears to be highly intolerant of siltation and probably does not occur in the Lower Mississippi or Minnesota River drainages for this reason. The gilt darter's existence in Minnesota could become threatened if sediment loading increases markedly in the St. Croix drainage.

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