Macrolepidotum or Breviceps

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RoughFish
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Macrolepidotum or Breviceps

From what I understand (from Peterson field guide) smallmouth are a subspecies of shorthead redhorse. I have caught several canidates that in the past I thought were all shortheads, but Id like to get some input from all of my fellow anglers. The first is one I caught today in the White River drainage. This fish has a less drastically curved dorsal fin than some of the other I have caught and made me question my previous ID's.

These next two both came from another session last year but from the same spot.

The next two I caught last year in the Tippecanoe River.

Im interested in what you guys think, Ive got my fingers crossed that I may have my first armchair lifer here. I currently have all of these in my shorthead redhorse file.

RoughFish
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Forgot*

I wanted to add that all of these fish had the same mouth shape, only the dorsals and caudal fis varied.

Dr Flathead
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Thats a tough one.  Shorthead

Thats a tough one.  Shorthead range is very hit and miss in Indiana.  The range map on this site says Shorthead are only in a tiny fleck of  NW Indiana.  Other range maps cover the entire northern half of the state.  Tippecanoe River seems to be central to almost northern Indiana.  Would this river be considered Mississippi drainage or Ohio drainage? Also, judging these guys by appearance looks like its pretty inconclusive.   I reviewed the Smallmouth Redhorse lifelist entries and they seem to vary in appearance to me.  Like the dorsal doesnt look the same on all of them.  Some of them just look like Shorthead to me.  One thing I did notice is the tail looks more "Sickllefin like" on these Smallmouths, which is the case on that last redhorse pic you have.  But I dont know if thats reliable either.  I'm a bit out of my comfort level commenting on these questionable reds.  But I sure would love to catch a Smallmouth Redhorse someday.

RoughFish
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The ones from the Tippecanoe

The ones from the Tippecanoe were caught in the Tippecanoe River state park, near Culver Indiana, and would be in the Mississippi drainage. Being from two different drainages made me have higher hopes that these could be different. Maybe Jknuth or others here will have some insight, if not I’ll email them to my district biologist and/or John Lyons and see what they have to say. Between the Peterson guide and Indiana guide the only differences other than the shape of dorsal fin were that the smallmouth sometimes has an uneven caudal fin with a longer and thinner upper lobe.

maurer416
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I fish the same drainage as

I fish the same drainage as you and have only caught Smallmouth Redhorse. It is a tough area because they come close to overlapping in distribution. However, both the White and Tippecanoe flow into the Wabash, which flow into the Ohio, so there should only be Smallmouth Redhorse. I would say the first photo is the only one I am not sure of, the rest appear to be Smallmouth Redhorse. If it was not from the White River I would say based on appearance that the first one is a Shorthead, so it very well could be. 

RoughFish
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Maurer, that first fish is

Maurer, that first fish is the one I think is different from the rest as well...... what makes you so sure the ones you’ve caught are smallmouth over shorthead other than the region? I have little faith in range maps as I’ve caught many fish not listed in the areas I’ve captured them in the past (using Peterson’s and Indiana guide to freshwater). Peterson’s has smallmouth listed as a subspecies of shorthead and says they intergrade (which I assume means hybridize)...... since both drainages connect to the same major rivers, doesn’t this mean they could be throughout either? Indiana guide to freshwater fishes lists shorthead as “northern shorthead redhorse” and has its range restricted to the upper portions of the state, but again I find the range information inaccurate in both books. Looks like this may be a job for John Lyons, he’s like freshwater fish Jesus.

maurer416
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Yeah, luckily the first

Yeah, luckily the first smallmouth I caught was close to Cincinnati, which is far from the range of the Shorthead and blocked off from the Mississippi by multiple dams. I would say that the concavity of the dorsal fin in the bottom four fish is a distinguishable characteristic of the Smallmouth. I would recommend taking a trip north or west to an area where only shortheads live, because the Wabash drainage most likely has combinations and hybrids of them both. 

J Dunfee
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Smallmouth redhorse are a

Smallmouth redhorse are a separate species entirely.

Do you have any more pics? I have some decent guesses. But, although the "model" smallmouth and shorthead look quite a bit different; lots of times, in reality, that isn't the case.. Not to mention both being in the same area + the possibility of intergrades.. 

We need some more pics, man. More angles n such..

J Dunfee
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And Doc is right. I'm from an

And Doc is right. I'm from an area where smallmouth reds are native. They're common an hr or so away from me. So I've caught a million. A lot of them look WAY different than shortheads. A lot look different enough that if you have a good eye it's easy to notice. There are a few here and there that just look like shortheads. Flat out. To the point where if you put them next to a shorthead, human eyes prob wouldn't be able to tell the difference just by an initial look.

Redhorse can be so tough to ID just from pics. Even if it's just a weird angle or a weird fish and someone experienced is off that day and a little too confident, they could easily give you a wrong ID. I do it every once in awhile and have to re-calibrate myself..

If you ever have even a hint of doubt, take a million pics. They don't have to look good. They just have to be varied, detailed, and plentiful.. 

One thing I will say is there seems to be a significant difference in smallmouth and shorthead behavior. Do you notice fish acting any different from one place to the next?

RoughFish
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What more do you need to see

What more do you need to see that’s not apparent in these pics? You can see everything you would need to ID a redhorse save the mouth, and all had the same mouth shape. I’m on a trip at the moment, but I’ll upload the mouth pics here and the responses I get from my district biologists and John Lyons when they reply..... it will be good info for the site.

RoughFish
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Reply

Sent these pictures and the mouth photos to John Lyons and two Indiana district biologists ( one from each area the fish were caught). Got a reply from John almost immediately and have been waiting for one from the others but its been a while so I thought I would post his reply.

 

"Redhorse ID from photos is always tricky, as ideally you need to look at things from many different angles and make counts of fin rays and scales. And I'm not completely familiar with the Indiana redhorse fauna. But here's my best shot. The first two look like shorthead redhorse (Moxostoma macrolepidotum). The second two, appearing to have the upper lobe of the tail a little longer than the bottom lobe, and the first few rays of the dorsal fin substantially longer than the remainder, look like they could be the smallmouth redhorse (M. breviceps). This species used to just be considered a form of the shorthead, but recently it's been elevated to a full species. However, to my knowledge, it's not known from the Tippecanoe, being reported only from drainages further downstream and south. So I don't know what to say about those two. The last one could also be a smallmouth redhorse, but I'd really need more angles to say for sure. Sorry I can't be more definitive."

 

I sent these to him in a different order than pictured here. The first two he believes are shorthead are fish 2 and 3 in the photos here from the white river, the second two that could be smallmouth are fishes 4 and 5 from the Tippecanoe, and the final fish he saw and suggested could be a smallmouth is the first one pictured here from the White River as well. 

I was curious as to what other angles he needed for future photos so here is his response for that as well. 

 

" Always do a side and a mouth view, several of each if possible from slightly different angles. Try to have at least one of the side views with the fish laying flat on the ground. When you hold the fish in your hands the body usually ends up a little bit curved, which can make it hard to assess relative distances and body proportions. If you can, close-ups of the dorsal fin, pelvic fins, and tail area (caudal and anal fins) with the fins erect such that the number of fin rays can be counted are also useful." 

 

I stand corrected on more photos......knew I had a good shot of lateral line, dorsal fins, and mouths but didnt take closeups of the other fins or of the fish on a flat surface (even though im holding them pretty straight :) ) If I get a response from either IDNR biologist I will post those as well. Im interested to hear what the one from the Tippecanoes zone has to say about the ones caught there.