This unique fish is endemic to the Green River in Kentucky.
With more than 90,000 miles of rivers, streams and creeks throughout the state, Kentucky boasts 244 species of native freshwater fish, making it the third most diverse state for native fish populations in the nation. The distinction is not lost on the North American Native Fishes Association’s Kentucky representative, Josh Blaylock, who attended the Conservancy’s 2012 Clean the Green event.
To Blaylock, a passionate advocate for native fish populations, the key to maintaining this impressive ranking is clean water.
“Plain and simple, the health of Kentucky’s fish depend upon clean waters feeding into rivers like the Kentucky, Cumberland and Green,” says Blaylock.
An insurance adjuster by day, Blaylock spends much of his free time working with organizations like the Conservancy and the Kentucky Waterways Alliance to bring attention to water quality and Kentucky’s array of native fish. According to Blaylock, you don’t need to be a PhD to identify healthy aquatic habitat.
“Look at the rocks,” adds Blaylock. “If they are nice and clean, stick around and go fishing; if they are slick and silty, there is work to be done.” The presence of darters also reveals clues. “When I see several less common darters, I know the water quality is good.”
In addition to water quality, invasive species such as Asian carp and zebra mussels also threaten native populations of many of Kentucky’s aquatic species.
Over the years, Blaylock has become enamored with the colors, shapes and sizes of minnows, shiners, darters, catfish and other native fish he believes equally compare to tropical varieties. In fact, over the years he gradually moved beyond appreciation and into collecting and caring for them in aquariums. He set up such an aquarium at the 2012 Clean the Green event. Volunteers enjoyed having a close-up look at the fish they benefited as a result of the day’s efforts.
“Raising awareness about Kentucky’s unique and beautiful fish is the best way to get people involved with caring for the water and other natural resources,” says Blaylock. “I just want to help spread the awareness anyway I can.”