Blue Catfish Study Underway

30 Jul
July 30, 2008

Well now this is a bit different fishing report than I normally do but I though it an interesting story. On July 30th I accompanied VDGIF Fisheries Biologist Eric Brittle, Scott Herrmann, Mitchell Norman, Regional Manager Bob Greenlee and Fisheries Technician Senior Matt Blommell on the Nottoway River. The mission was to see how many Blue Catfish could be shocked up as part of an on-going study of the species and their ever increasing numbers in the Blackwater and Nottoway.

The non-native species over the years have been increasing in numbers in the two Rivers. It was only 15 years or so ago that the species started coming up the rivers during the spring shad and herring runs. Now the fish are staying here year around. Biologist Bob Greenlee believes one reason is because the species has so populated the lower Chowan that the hardy fish are just moving into new waters to accommodate their ever speedily increasing numbers. It is believed the species could supplant some other catfish species in the two rivers eventually especially white catfish and bullhead catfish. It is hoped that other game fish species such as largemouth bass will not be affected. Hope is about all that can be done as there really is no way to stop their spread. I have helped VDGIF in the past on shock projects acting as a guide but this was the first time I got to see two boats in action. I was in a third boat which was the Blackwater Nottoway Riverkeeper boat so I could film some of the action. It was really impressive watching these guys work in tandem and you could tell they knew what they were doing. One boat would be in front shocking with the second boat careening back and forth in a frantic effort to scoop up the dazed catfish before they could come too and swim safely back to the bottom of the river. In a good spot the catfish would come popping up to the surface 30 to 50 at a time making the two guys netting in the chase boat really have to get down to business. After about four hours on the river the temperature was pushing 94 and the humidity was about the same and it was HOT. It was decided that enough had been caught and the dedicated biologist worked up the last batch of catfish collected which means they were identified by species, counted, weighed and measured. The Blue Catfish total for the day was 92 with probably three times that many other catfish caught, mostly white catfish. The largest blue measured was a 14 pound monster which is a big catfish on the Nottoway. It will take many other counts at different times of the year to get a grasp on how this new species is populating our rivers. We already know however that their numbers are increasing as well as their size. In the past three years there have been several fish taken by anglers over 20 pounds, the most recent by my girlfriend which weighed 25 pounds. The Blue Catfish is here to stay in our rivers for good or for bad. I believe that they will become a wonderful new fishery providing anglers with great sport and also great table fare that can be enjoyed by anybody that wets a line in these two great rivers we call the Nottoway and Blackwater.
Pictures are in the Gallery

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