Smoky madtom

Noturus baileyi





Listed Endangered with Critical Habitat on October 26, 1984 (49 FR 43065 43069).  Recovery Plan completed on August 9, 1985.


Note: All descriptions are excerpted from the Federal Register (1984), the Recovery Plan (1985), and the Division of Endangered Species, Species Account [online].



The smoky madtom is a small member of the catfish family (Ictaluridae), only reaching about 2.9 inches at maturity.  This species feeds primarily on aquatic insects.



Very little is known about the reproductive characteristics of the smoky madtom.  However, the fish has been found in various stages of breeding condition during the spring and summer, and nests have been located under large slab rocks in pool areas during July (Dinkins, 1982).  Eggs are deposited in shallow depressions under rocks and adhered to each other in a mass.



Historically, the smoky madtom may have occurred in the main channel of the Little Tennessee River upstream to the Tennessee-North Carolina border prior to the construction of impoundments (Etnier et al., 1984).  The fish has been collected from only two tributaries of the Little Tennessee River-Abrams Creek, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Blount County, Tennessee; and Citico Creek, Cherokee National Forest, Monroe County, Tennessee.


The smoky madtom population has been extirpated from the Abram Creek.  This species is now restricted to approximately 6.5 miles of Citico Creek primarily within the Cherokee National Forest, Monroe County, Tennessee.



The Citico Creek habitat is characterized as shallow riffles containing abundant flat, palm size gravel and scattered flat rocks, and deep pools (3.3-6ft (1.2m) deep) with silty/sandy bottoms and large boulders.  Between May and November the smoky madtom is found in close association with riffle areas.  At other times of the year the fish inhabits shallow pool areas.



The Citico Creek watershed contains geologic formations of anakeesta shale, an acid-bearing rock, which has caused problems in the past.  In the 1970s, exposed anakeesta shale leached sulfates, heavy metals, and increased the acidity in Grassy Branch, a tributary of South Fork Citico Creek, eliminating all the fish life in this area.  Attempts to mitigate the problem have been unsuccessful, and the threat of future exposure is still present. 



Due to its limited distribution, the species could be rendered extinct by a single catastrophic event, either natural or human-related.  Threats could come from logging activities, road and bridge construction and maintenance, mineral exploration and mining, and other projects in the watershed if these activities are not planned and implemented with the survival of the species in mind.  Other threats include potential soil erosion and siltation problems associated with any land disturbance.


Several species of madtom have inexplicably been extirpated in portions of their range where complex organic chemicals have been present.  It is speculated that the chemicals adversely affect the fish’s olfactory senses.  If true, a chemical spill in Citico Creek would undoubtedly cause a problem for the smoky madtom.



Top priority must go to carefully planning and conducting all construction and other activities in the watershed that have a potential for degrading water quality. The possibility of exposing an anakeesta shale should be kept in mind any time that road or bridge construction is planned. Population status should be monitored on a regular basis to assure that a decline does not go undetected. Research on life history and habitat requirements should be continued until management needs are fully determined. Continual efforts should be made toward reestablishing a smoky madtom population in the remaining suitable area in Abrams Creek (between Abrams Creek campground and Bell Branch).



Dinkins, Geroald R. 1982. Status survey of the smoky madtom (Noturus baileyi): Final report under contract (Number 14-16-004-81-060) to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Asheville, NC. 33pp.

Etnier, D.A., P.W. Shute, and G.R. Dinkins. 1984. Management plan for the yellowfin and smoky madtom in Citico Creek, Monroe County, Tennessee. Unpublished reports submitted to U.S. Forest Service, Cherokee National Forest. 32pp.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1984. Determination of Endangered Status and Designation of Critical Habitat for the Smoky Madtom (Noturus baileyi).

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1985. Smoky Madtom Recovery Plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, Georgia. 28pp.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Division of Endangered Species, Species Account, Smoky madtom (Notropis baileyi) [online]. Source: Endangered and Threatened Species of the Southeastern United States (The Red Book) FWS Region 4 -- As of 1/91.  Available: Aug. 13, 2002.