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Fish removed from Fort Gordon refuge

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A pond at Fort Gordon modified to house a small population of the endangered robust redhorse sucker was evacuated Wednesday after the impoundment developed drainage problems.

The rare species, documented by scientists more than a century ago and once thought to have been extinct, was rediscovered in the mid-1990s in the Oconee River and at New Savannah Bluff and the Savannah River shoals near Augusta.

Since then, biologists have used fish from those small populations to produce breeding stock for introduction elsewhere.

"We've been maintaining one of those refugal populations in this pond," post spokeswoman Marla Jones said. "Fort Gordon entered into a partnership with Georgia in 2000 to help conserve the robust redhorse."

As part of that effort, a pond on the post was cleansed of native fish and stocked with about 3,000 fingerlings to give biologists a population from which to pull small numbers of fish to be released in streams elsewhere.

Recently, drainage problems caused the pond to begin losing water, so the fish needed to be removed.

On Wednesday, crews from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources used an electro-fishing boat loaned by Georgia's Wildlife Resources Division to capture and transport as many fish as possible to the Dennis Wildlife Center Hatchery near Bonneau, S.C. More fish might be moved later this week, Ms. Jones said.

The robust redhorse, named for its stout shape and bright-red coloring, differs from several common species of redhorse sucker in many ways, including its size. The fish can reach 17 pounds, and some will live 27 years.

They typically spawn in rocky shoals with fast-flowing, clean water. The decline of such habitats because of development and the construction of reservoirs during the past century are believed to have contributed to the near-elimination of the species.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

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