Plants and Animals

Noturus stigmosus Northern madtom

species photo
Amy Derosier
species photo
Amy Derosier

Key Characteristics

The northern madtom is a stocky fish with four broken dark saddle bands, the last of which is at the base of the adipose fin. However the dark par does not extent to the distal margin of the adipose fin. The dorsal fin has a brownish or dusk bar but no jet-black blotch. There are a pair of light spots just anterior to the base of the dorsal fin.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: E - Endangered (legally protected)
Global Rank: G3 - Vulnerable
State Rank: S1 - Critically imperiled


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Oakland 1 2002
St. Clair 3 2017
Washtenaw 7 2008
Wayne 3 2016

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


The northern madtom occurs in large rivers in Michigan. It has also been found in Lake St. Clair. It prefers strong currents with sand, gravel, or rocky substrates. This species is somewhat tolerant of turbidity, but avoids heavily silted areas.

Specific Habitat Needs

Rocky substrates needed in: Inland lake, littoral, benthic; Inland lake, pelagic, benthic; Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), riffle; River (5th-6th order), riffle.

Natural Community Types

  • Inland lake, littoral, benthic
  • Inland lake, pelagic, benthic
  • Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), riffle
  • River (5th-6th order), riffle

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Management Recommendations

The sporadic range and small populations of the northern madtom suggest that this species is sensitive to habitat disturbance and has very specific ecological requirements. Little is known about the specific habitat requirement of this species; however increased turbidity, siltation, and flow alterations are likely threats. As such, it is important to preserve the natural state of river where this species occurs. Maintenance or establishment of natural flows and vegetated riparian buffers will likely aid in protecting this species habitats.

Active Period

Spawning from fourth week of June to third week of August

Survey Methods


Survey Period: From first week of April to first week of October


Survey Period: From first week of April to first week of October


Survey Period: From first week of April to first week of October


Survey References

  • Murphy, B.R. and D.W. Willis, eds. 1996. Fisheries Techniques, 2nd ed. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda. 732pp.

Technical References

  • Bailey, R.M., W.C. Latta, and G.R. Smith. 2004. An Atlas of Michigan Fishes. Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, No. 192, Ann Arbor. 215p.
  • Carman, S.M. 2001. Special Animal Abstract for Noturus stigmosus (Northern madtom). Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Lansing, MI. 2pp.
  • Evers, D.C. 1994. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife of Michigan. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor. 412pp.
  • Scott, W.B. and E.J. Crossman. 1973. Freshwater fishes of Canada. Bulletin 184, Fisheries Research Board of Canada, Ottawa. 966pp.
  • Trautman, M.B. 1981. The Fishes of Ohio. Ohio State University Press, Columbus. 782pp.

More Information