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Thread: Freshwater Invasive - Flathead Catfish

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    Default Freshwater Invasive - Flathead Catfish

    The DNR is particularly concerned about the flathead catfish, a predatory, fish-eating catfish. It became popular in the 1960s when it was stocked in Lake Thurmond and the Santee-Cooper lakes along with blue catfish.



    “In those days, it was standard procedure to try to stock different species for food and sport without knowing the long-term effects,” says Thomason. “But the flathead catfish is a top predator in any system.”

    The flathead catfish and blue catfish are popular, thriving fish in the vast environment of the Santee-Cooper lakes. However, when they find their way to small, low-fertility river systems like the black waters of the Edisto, they can completely wipe out native species like bullheads and shellcrackers.

    Georgia has made several unsuccessful attempts to eradicate the flathead catfish, but the animal’s reproductive prowess and ability to tolerate both warm and cool waters make it extremely versatile. The DNR projects that South Carolina may be able to establish a minimal level of control by applying angling pressure, but the flathead catfish is now a permanent part of the Palmetto State’s ecosystem.

    “These catfish are an example of invasive species that some people are happy to see and other people see as a real problem,” says Thomason. “With some other species, everyone is in agreement that we don’t want them.”
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    Transcript of Invasive Species - Flathead Catfish

    The Flathead Catfish is a threat to it's environment .Unlike most catfish the Flathead is not a scavenger which means it eats live fish. The Flathead is a larger fish and Thrives off eating mass amounts of fish.Which is causing a larger decline in other breeds of fish. This is especial a problem in States like North Carolina where the Flathead is wiping out the native fishes such as the redbreast sunfish, white catfish and bullhead species, and small madtoms.The Flathead is dominate predator the fish populations it's area and because it can be a hard catch for Anglers this not good. This trend is also causing concern in other states along the Eastern Seaboard, all the way from Florida to Pennsylvania.

    History and Future

    The flathead catfish became the dominant predator in the Cape Fear drainage, North Carolina, within 15 years of the introduction (Guire et al. 1984). The species may actually be native to the upper Tennessee drainage in North Carolina (Jenkins and Starnes, personal communication). In their book on Alabama fishes, Mettee et al. (1996) presented conflicting information regarding native versus introduced ranges. These researchers stated, in the species account, that Pylodictis olivaris is introduced to the Conecuh and Escatawpa river systems, but they listed the species as "native" in their summary table. Starnes et al. (2011) suggest that although the Potomac River population is highly localized, favorable habitat in the Plummers Island area could allow it to expand further upstream.

    Physical Characteristics

    As the common name suggests, this catfish has a flat head, but other than that, it looks like any other catfish: it has smooth, scaleless skin, whisker-like barbels around the mouth, and long, sharp spines on the dorsal (back) fin and one on each side of the pectoral (shoulder) fin. Flathead catfish reach a length of 3 to 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 m) and their weight can exceed 100 pounds (45 kg). Pylodictis is Greek meaning "mud fish", and olivaris is Latin for "olive-colored". Flathead catfish are typically pale yellow (hence the name "yellow cat") to light brown on the back and sides, and highly mottled with black and/or brown. The belly is usually pale yellow or cream colored. The head is broadly flattened, with a projecting lower jaw. The tail fin is only slightly notched, not deeply forked as is the case with blue and channel catfish. Young fish may be very dark, almost black in appearance.

    Where can Flat head cat fish be found

    Flathead catfish inhabit rivers, lakes, and reservoirs with slow currents. Younger individuals prefer shallower water. Older and larger Flathead catfish stay in deeper waters during the daylight hours (typical depth 3-6 m), moving into shallower water at night. They prefer to remain near or under cover, including fallen trees, logs, brush piles, and river banks. A log that is 5 m long is large enough to provide sufficient cover for one large adult flathead catfish. These catfish are generally found in waters from 21.7 to 30°C.

    Location

    Flathead catfish are native to rivers and lakes in the lower Great Lakes and Mississippi River basin. They are found in appropriate habitat in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, much of Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, western Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, and as far south as Mexico.

    Behavioral Characteristics

    Flatheads spawn in early summer, later than channel catfish. The flathead’s spawning behavior is like that of other catfish. The adults form pairs and build nests in natural cavelike depressions in the bank, or they may hollow out a cavity under an underwater object, like a log or boulder. Their compact egg masses contain from 4,000 to 100,000 eggs. The male guards the nest and the newly hatched fry, becoming aggressive toward the female.

    Introductions Outside Native Range

    This species has been introduced farther east and west of its native range, to parts of Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

    Predators

    Black bullheads and channel catfish eat young flathead catfish.
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    Effort to Knock Out Invasive Flathead Catfish Species Resumes in Georgia's Satilla River

    WAYCROSS, Ga - Last year's efforts to eradicate the effects of the unwelcome, invasive flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) on native fish populations in the Satilla River resulted in the removal of exactly 4,399 flathead catfish. This year, those efforts continue as biologists and fisheries personnel with the Satilla River Flathead Catfish Project team, a part of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Resources Division (WRD), kick-off the 2008 sampling season with the second round of tagging studies.

    "Tagging efforts this year again will aid biologists in obtaining important baseline information, such as fishing mortality, movement, growth, population size and total mortality in the Satilla's flathead catfish population," explains the project's lead Biologist Tim Bonvechio. "Removal of flathead catfish in the 2008 sampling season will begin immediately after a target number of fish are tagged."

    WRD asks any angler who catches a tagged fish to please mail the bright orange tag to the WRD Waycross office mailing address: Georgia Department of Natural Resources, P.O. Box 2089, Waycross, Ga., 31502-2089. Anglers should include their name, address, phone number(s), the date of the catch, the catch location (GPS coordinates if available, local landmarks, etc.), the length and weight of the fish and whether the fish was harvested or released (preferably harvested). Tags may also be hand-delivered to the Waycross Fisheries office located at 108 Darling Ave., Waycross, Ga., 31502.

    Flathead catfish were illegally introduced into the Satilla River in the 1990s and the resulting decline of redbreast sunfish (Lepomis auritus) and other native fish species in this once premier sunfish fishery is an issue that WRD biologists and fisheries personnel are continuing to tackle. Given the predatory characteristics of flatheads, if this non-native species continues to prosper, the reputation of the Satilla River as one of Georgia's premier sunfish fisheries will likely suffer.

    The Satilla Riverkeeper and the Georgia Wildlife Federation were instrumental in obtaining support for the Satilla River Flathead Catfish Project. This project is made up of a team of WRD fisheries biologists and technicians working to monitor and determine the effectiveness of flathead removals on native fish species populations in the Satilla River.

    Unauthorized release of flathead catfish or any other fish species into public waters is illegal in the state of Georgia and violators can be prosecuted. Exotic species can and often do have severe negative impacts on native fish. Those knowledgeable of illegal fish stocking are asked to please report the violations to any WRD Fisheries Management office or contact (770) 918-6406.

    For more information on the project, visit www.gofishgeorgia.com. You'll find information on the Satilla River Flathead Catfish Project under "Fishing," then "Fisheries Management," then "Aquatic Nuisance Species." For additional information, contact the nearest WRD Fisheries Management Office or call (770) 918-6406.
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    DNR working to aid redbreast population


    Redbreast sunfish are released into the Little Pee Dee River
    at Gallivant’s Ferry on Nov. 14 as the final stage of the
    South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ stocking of
    approximately a half-million of the panfish into the river


    One of the native fish species in the Little Pee Dee River got a nice boost this month to help them withstand pressure from a ravenous non-native species.

    During the first two weeks of November, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources stocked approximately a half-million redbreast sunfish at various locations in the river. The final stocking came on Nov. 14 when about 10,000 redbreast were released into the river at the John Holiday Boat Ramp near Galivants Ferry.

    The S.C. DNR’s Freshwater Fisheries Section annually stocks from seven to 10 million fish in state waters.

    Species raised and stocked into appropriate bodies of water across the state include striped bass, hybrid bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, blue catfish, bluegill, redbreast, redear sunfish (shellcracker), rainbow trout, brook trout and brown trout.

    Redbreast were selected for stocking in the Little Pee Dee because they are a popular species among river fishermen and their numbers – although stable – are threatened by flathead catfish that have taken up residence in the river over the last 15 to 20 years.

    The redbreast population also has been adversely affected by drought conditions, particularly the drought that stretched from 1998-2002 and is considered the worst in the state since records have been kept.

    Flathead catfish are native to the Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi river basins and are considered an invasive species in South Carolina rivers. Unlike most catfish, the large flathead prefers live bait and studies show they have a particular taste for redbreast, along with bullhead catfish.

    Still, the redbreast population in the Little Pee Dee appears to be stable, according to Ross Self, Chief of Fisheries of S.C. DNR’s Freshwater Fisheries Section.

    “We feel like they’re seeing more redbreast in the river this year,” said Self. “From our sampling, it looks like the redbreast population is going pretty well in the Little Pee Dee.”

    The redbreast that were stocked in the river were spawned in the spring and measured about 2-3 inches in length when released. Since the species begins spawning at a year of age, the released fish should provide a boost to the population in 2014.

    “Some of these fish will be spawning next spring and into next summer,” said Self.

    Anglers can personally help the redbreast by catching flatheads and helping to keep the number of the non-native catfish in check.

    “Catch all the flatheads you can,” said Self. “They are considered a non-game species and as such have no creel or size limit. You can take all you want, any size.”
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    Ironic
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    ^^^Exactly what I was thinking.
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    I try my darndeset to help big brothers plight against the flat head. My lights don't go over one without an attempt and if he gets out we chase it like its got my wallet. Not only do I think a flathead eats better than a blue, I get a chubby pullin that wide face over the side. But, I cant say I have worked on em quite as hard as Treymo and co did a couple years ago. Just know if they are eradicated from the system....I had something to do with it.
    Last edited by BigBallin; 02-23-2014 at 09:53 PM.
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    Just so you know, its my goal on this earth to force the gubment to change laws because of my personal hunting and fishing exploits. Im sure we had something to do with the blue cat thing, I know we had something to do with the crawfish thing, I hope to have something to do with putting a limit on flatheads, after that my goal will be to drop the redfish back to two, then Im starting hard on the hogs and they will put a 2 pig per day limit on em when they see what I have done. They will regulate common carp after that and within 4 years I will have the squirrel limit dropped to 5. Flounder gigging will be dropped to 5 per person when I start putting pics up on Chas Fishing and they will shut the black bass down for two years. They will end the alligator harvest program and begin a conservation effort requiring tax dollar to replenish the lizard and after that they will shut down all recreational fishing for bream fishes in the santee cooper system because of overfishing.
    Then my job will be done and Ill move on like a plague, Texas be damned after that, some men are remembered by the achievements, I will be remembered for the laws I left behind.
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    I fish the peedee for flatheads year round.

    Damn good fight they put on... blues are ok, but they give up too quick.

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    Maybe we could get a Blue Cat voucher for every flathead killed........

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBallin View Post
    Just so you know, its my goal on this earth to force the gubment to change laws because of my personal hunting and fishing exploits. Im sure we had something to do with the blue cat thing, I know we had something to do with the crawfish thing, I hope to have something to do with putting a limit on flatheads, after that my goal will be to drop the redfish back to two, then Im starting hard on the hogs and they will put a 2 pig per day limit on em when they see what I have done. They will regulate common carp after that and within 4 years I will have the squirrel limit dropped to 5. Flounder gigging will be dropped to 5 per person when I start putting pics up on Chas Fishing and they will shut the black bass down for two years. They will end the alligator harvest program and begin a conservation effort requiring tax dollar to replenish the lizard and after that they will shut down all recreational fishing for bream fishes in the santee cooper system because of overfishing.
    Then my job will be done and Ill move on like a plague, Texas be damned after that, some men are remembered by the achievements, I will be remembered for the laws I left behind.
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    Are they in the Little Pee Dee?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fish View Post
    Are they in the Little Pee Dee?
    Oh yes

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    Has anyone on here used jugs to catch em?
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    Unscientific of course, but in our stretch of the S. Edisto the Redbreast fishing has declined.... dramatically.

    Our group biggest Flathead to date was a hair over 73 lbs. From water that was knee deep...

    They are an efficient predator..
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fish View Post
    Has anyone on here used jugs to catch em?
    Never used jugs.. I don't catch many flats on limb lines either.

    I aim for log jams, brush, current breaks for flatheads. They prefer live bait or fresh cut bait. Flathead is worse than a blue cat. I only catfish with rods. Going out this Saturday on the big pee dee to try my luck at some.

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    I think jugs are illegal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 308 View Post
    Never used jugs.. I don't catch many flats on limb lines either.

    I aim for log jams, brush, current breaks for flatheads. They prefer live bait or fresh cut bait. Flathead is worse than a blue cat. I only catfish with rods. Going out this Saturday on the big pee dee to try my luck at some.
    I'll be out there next Saturday to check what I'm putting out earlier in the week.

    Call me and we'll meet up.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gatorsc View Post
    Maybe we could get a Blue Cat voucher for every flathead killed........
    2 if its over 30lbs should be
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    I get a chuckle when I hear people talk about the blue being "sporty".

    The flathead is more of a game fish than a blue ever thought about being.

    Doesnt change the fact that I hate them both, and either one will flat eat their weight if their bellys could hold it...

    Kill em all and send them back where they came from.

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