We examined invasions of non-native fishes into the Eel River, California. At least 16 species of fish have been introduced into the drainage which originally supported 12-14 fish species. Our study was prompted by the unauthorized introduction in 1979 of Sacramento squawfish, Ptychocheilus grandis, a large predatory cyprinid. From 1986 to 1990, we conducted growth and diet studies of squaw fish, conducted intensive surveys of the distribution and habitat associations of both native and introduced species, and examined the nature of species-habitat and interspecies relationships. We found no evidence for increased growth or expanded feeding habits, compared to native populations, of Sacramento squawfish as they invaded the Eel River drainage. Ten of the introduced species were well established, with four species limited to a reservoir and six species established in streams. The success or failure of introductions of stream species appeared to be a function of the ability of a species to survive the fluctuating, highly seasonal, flow regime. The present mixture of native and exotic species has not formed stable fish assemblages but it seems likely that four habitat-associated assemblages will develop. The overall effect of the successful species introductions has been to assemble a group of species, with some exceptions, that are native to and occur together in many California streams. The assemblages now forming are similar to those found in other California streams. The assemblage characterized by squawfish and suckers is likely to be resistant to invasion, in the absence of human caused habitat modifications.
Additional publication details
Invading species in the Eel River, California: Successes, failures, and relationships with resident species