Plants and Animals

Percina copelandi Channel darter

species photo

Key Characteristics

The channel darter is an elongate, slender darter with light olive to sand coloration and 10 to 15 small blotches along the midline on each side. This darter is distinguished from other darters by the enlarged scales between the base of the pelvic fins. In addition, the channel darter has two anal spines.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: E - Endangered (legally protected)
Global Rank: G4 - Apparently secure
State Rank: S1 - Critically imperiled


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Alcona 5 2007
Alpena 4 1925
Arenac 6 1941
Cheboygan 2 1951
Huron 4 1930
Iosco 3 1986
Macomb 6 2017
Monroe 2 1941
Ogemaw 1 1941
Saginaw 1 1941
St. Clair 3 1996
Tuscola 3 1930
Wayne 5 1952

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 channel darter inhabits rivers and large creeks in areas of moderate current over sand and gravel substrates. It also occurs in wave swept nearshore areas of lakes Huron and Erie in coarse-sand, fine-gravel beach and sandbar habitats.

Specific Habitat Needs

Sand and gravel needed in: Inland lake, littoral, benthic; 

Sand and gravel substrates needed in: Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), pool; Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), riffle; River (5th-6th order), pool; River (5th-6th order), riffle; 

Natural Community Types

  • Inland lake, littoral, benthic
  • Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), pool
  • Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), riffle
  • River (5th-6th order), pool
  • 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 range of the channel darter in Michigan has been drastically reduced over the past century. Much of the decline can be linked to habitat loss, heavy siltation, and other pollutants. Sound land use practices, such as the maintenance or establishment of riparian vegetation is important for the protection of this species habitats.

Active Period

Spawning from first week of July to fourth week of July

Survey Methods


Survey Period: From first week of April to fourth week of September

Time of Day: Evening
Water Level: Low Water Levels
Water Turbidity: Low Turbidity
Survey Method Comment: Found in deep water during the day and shallower water at night (Smith 1985, Trautman 1985)


Survey Period: From first week of April to fourth week of September

Time of Day: Evening


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. and R. R. Goforth. 2000. Special animal abstract for Percina copelandi (Channel darter). 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.
  • Pflieger, W. L. 1975. The fishes of Missouri. Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City. 2pp.
  • Smith, C.L. 1985. The inland fishes of New York State. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany. 522pp.
  • Trautman, M.B. 1981. The Fishes of Ohio. Ohio State University Press, Columbus. 782pp.

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