Published by the RI Department of Environmental Management in 2013, the book is a definitive scientific work and the first of its kind for Rhode Island freshwater fish species. Written by biologist Alan D. Libby and illustrated by Robert Jon Golder, the 287-page book contains descriptions and illustrations of every species of native fish found in Rhode Island’s fresh waters during surveys conducted by DEM’s Division of Fish & Wildlife from 1993 to 2012. Detailed characteristics used to identify each species are presented, in addition to habitat descriptions, life history information, and a distribution map for each species. Scientific illustrations of each fish in color and black and white aid with identification.
From 1993 to 2012, more than 72 species of fish representing 34 families were collected. Of those, 32 species of freshwater fish, representing 21 native and 11 introduced or non-indigenous species were sampled. In addition, more than 30 species of fish that regularly or occasionally spend a portion of their lives in both fresh and saltwater were collected. The most diversity was found in the Pawcatuck River, which boasted 67 species, followed by the Blackstone River basin, which had 31 species. The Pawcatuck River’s greater diversity is the result of it having fewer dams to obstruct the movement of fish in and out of the river.
The American eel and the largemouth bass were the most commonly occurring fish species. They were found in more than half of the localities surveyed, in all 10 of the state’s watersheds, and in both stream and pond locations. Pumpkinseed, bluegill, chain pickerel, wild brook trout, and brown bullhead were also widely distributed, appearing in more than a third of the localities sampled and in at least nine of the state’s 10 drainage basins.
In the last 5 years several new species of fish have been discovered, some of which are considered invasive exotics such as the rock bass and green sunfish.