Five conceptual models of longitudinal fish community organization in streams were examined: (1) niche diversity model (NDM), (2) stream continuum model (SCM), (3) immigrant accessibility model (IAM), (4) environmental stability model (ESM), and (5) adventitious stream model (ASM). We used differences among models in their predictions about temporal species turnover, along with five spatiotemporal fish community data sets, to evaluate model applicability. Models were similar in predicting a positive species richness–stream size relationship and longitudinal species nestedness, but differed in predicting either similar temporal species turnover throughout the stream continuum (NDM, SCM), higher turnover upstream (IAM, ESM), or higher turnover downstream (ASM). We calculated measures of spatial and temporal variation from spatiotemporal fish data in five wadeable streams in central and eastern North America spanning 34–68 years (French Creek [New York], Piasa Creek [Illinois], Spruce Run [Virginia], Little Stony Creek [Virginia], and Sinking Creek [Virginia]). All streams exhibited substantial species turnover (i.e., at least 27% turnover in stream-scale species pools), in contrast to the predictions of the SCM. Furthermore, community change was greater in downstream than upstream reaches in four of five streams. This result is most consistent with the ASM and suggests that downstream communities are strongly influenced by migrants to and from species pools outside the focal stream. In Sinking Creek, which is isolated from external species pools, temporal species turnover (via increased richness) was higher upstream than downstream, which is a pattern most consistent with the IAM or ESM. These results corroborate the hypothesis that temperate stream habitats and fish communities are temporally dynamic and that fish migration and environmental disturbances play fundamental roles in stream fish community organization.