Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Wildlife and Fisheries Resources

Committee Chair

Stuart Welsh

Committee Co-Chair

Quinton Phelps

Committee Member

Quinton Phelps

Committee Member

Daniel Cincotta


The Kanawha River in West Virginia is a historically diverse system in terms of ichthyofauna although, like many other large rivers, it has been subjected to a suite of anthropomorphic perturbations. These include this system being modified to allow the passage of commercial vessels for industry thus altering flow regimes, increased sedimentation, water depth, and channelization, and decreased interactions with its floodplain. Additionally, the fishes of this system have suffered from deleterious historical water quality issues caused by intensive timber operations, mining, and industrial waste. Post Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act water quality has substantially improved and assessments of pelagic fishes within this system indicate that they have responded positively. However, due to sampling bias with traditional collection techniques, the WVDNR was data deficient on benthic fishes within this nonwadeable system. This study successfully detected seven species that were previously undetected from the Kanawha River proper by implementing benthic otter trawling with the Gerken Siamese Trawl (Innovative Net Systems). In addition to expanding the known distributions of many of West Virginia’s benthic fishes within the Kanawha River proper this study was also able to elucidate associations between several benthic fishes and their habitat use in large rivers, indicating that islands may be providing “islands” of habitat that are important to benthic fishes in this system and that physical habitat is likely more influential to benthic fishes’ habitat use than water quality.