The Kentucky arrow darter has a limited range in the upper Cumberland River drainage, most of which is in Kentucky. A status survey of E. s. spilotum in the Kentucky River basin has shown that populations have declined considerably during the past two decades. Kentucky arrow darters were detected in only 29 of 50 historic streams sampled in 2007 and 2008. This has led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to consider this taxon as a candidate for listing as threatened or endangered. CFI, in cooperation with Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife, developed captive propagation protocols for reintroduction of the Kentucky arrow darter into streams within its native range to restore populations that have been extirpated. Reintroduction sites will be chosen where habitat conditions are suitable and there is some level of protection (e.g., within wildlife management area or national forest boundaries). Survivability and movement patterns of released fish will be assessed through mark-recapture methods and through periodic monitoring using non-invasive methods, such as visual census techniques.
Details of the reproductive biology (e.g., spawning behavior) of the Kentucky arrow darter and other environmental conditions necessary for spawning to occur were poorly known before we spawned 110 young in captivity in 2009. Captive propagation and reintroduction is considered warranted to prevent this species from being added to the federal list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The 110 juvenile Kentucky arrow darters were released to Sugar Creek, Kentucky in an effort to restore the species to a stream (near the source population) where the species had apparently been extirpated, but which exhibited currently suitable habitat. In 2012 chillers we added to all Kentucky species systems and this greatly increased our production. We produced over 700 Kentucky arrow darters that were released into a new stocking site, Long Fork.